Alternative to Microsoft Streets and Trips?

I can’t handle being called an anti-Microsoft person — that would be like being called a Universal Mom over a Walt Disney World Mom. But with Jim retired from Microsoft due to his disability, I have been given lots of new found freedoms over the past two years. We all have iPhones for one.  I cannot begin to tell you how horrible it was 12 years ago to be forced to use early adopter alpha beta gamma whatever they call it – I called it junk – Windows smartphones. The only thing they did good was let me play Bubble Burst.

On our last two cross country trips we used a laptop and Microsoft Streets and Trips. It lets you plan a trip from A to B, but “budget” in hours of sleep or rest and add stops to your itinerary. It had its problems — the biggest being no one goes on vacation on DAY ONE. We need to be somewhere by June 25th, 2012 – not DAY FOUR. I don’t know if they have fixed that bug from previous versions yet – fingers crossed.

But back to the original question — before I spend money on the 2011 or 2012 version of Microsoft Streets and Trips – is there an alternative?  Are you guys using anything I should look into?

North to Alaska – and Whatever Else We Can See In Between!

I always have these grand intentions of building fabulous trip reports, and every time we take an awesome vacation, I go into it saying “I think I can; I think I can; I think I can” – and then I don’t.

Let’s approach this from a different angle – let’s start talking about it now, and maybe by June, when I actually take the trip, I’ll be more motivated to finish the conversation!  So let’s get started – come plan this trip with me!

Here are the basics:

We have to be onboard the Disney Wonder on June 25, 2012 – that’s only 252 days away!  Thank God we’re going to Alaska – I’ll never get into a bikini by then!!  We board in Seattle, WA.

We’ve chosen second seating because it gives us time to eat breakfast, second breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, second lunch, afternoon tea, and an evening snack before dinner.  We’d miss at least the evening snack if we did main seating dining!  Actually, we prefer second seating for a number of reasons.  We never feel we have to rush to get ready after a day of excursions, and if a kid comes back needing a nap, there’s time before dinner to do that.  We’re also more inclined to get to the shows if we go to them before dinner, as after dinner, you are so full and tired from a big day of adventure, you might decide just to turn in.  I also like that on some of our Disney cruises, the kids will get picked up by the kids’ club staff at second seating, and they will be escorted to their club for evening activities.  This gives Mom and Dad a chance to eat dinner with the kids, but also have some time to themselves to linger over a cup of tea and dessert.

Our itinerary:

Day One: Seattle, Washington

Day Two: At Sea

Day Three: Tracy Arm, Alaska

Day Four: Skagway, Alaska

Day Five: Juneau, Alaska

Day Six: Ketchikan, Alaska

Day Seven: Victoria, British Columbia

Day Eight: Seattle, Washington

Now to get there.  The plan at the moment is to drive.  From Jersey.  With three kids.  In one car.  Oh, and did I mention that at least one kid is in school until June 20th?  Unless we get no snow days, and then she might be done a couple of days sooner.  Should I start taking Valium NOW?

If Google Maps is accurate, we eliminate all pee breaks, we don’t eat anything not already in the car (I’m thinking by hour four, Granuaile is gonna look mighty tasty with some honey mustard), we don’t stop for gas, and we skip any side trips to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine and the World’s Biggest Rocking Chair, we can be there in just under two days (1 day, 22 hours).  My fear is, just adding in pee breaks is going to cause us to miss the boat.  Somehow, I have to balance potty stops, eating, and a tiny bit of sightseeing with getting there in four days – which puts us at a Seattle hotel the day before the cruise.  Oh, and did I mention that I wish to arrive somewhat sane?

And we’re off, faithful readers!  Watch over the next few posts how I try to lay out the trip TO Seattle.  Then we’ll talk shore excursion possibilities.  And finally, we’ll talk about how we get back in time to make my sister’s wedding on July 21st.  Dressed.  In North Carolina.

Oh – and who wants to watch my dogs for three weeks?  They’re great fun to have around!

 

Summer What?

I laugh in the face of you summer vacationing people.  HaHa!  While you are lounging comfortably on your beaches, basking in the mountain sunshine, cruising the seven seas, and trekking across Europe, I am learning the ins and outs (although mostly ins) of the human body.  Ha….ha?

 

I have virtually vanished from the blogosphere as I crack down on the whole process of reading, writing, and wracking my brain to try and make sure that when I actually DO become a nurse, I don’t kill anyone.  Needlessly.  And damn, it’s tough!

Remember the song “The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone” – you know it, we all sang it as children.  Yeah, well, don’t try to sing it in an effort to pass the bone practical in Anatomy and Physiology I – your instructor will not be amused.  And you Disney peeps – heading in humming the Hannah Montana bone song won’t get you very far either 🙁

So, the only basking I’m doing so far this summer is in the glory of the A on my transcript from A&P I.  And I’m hoping A&P II goes equally as well.

No go, you, get back to your summer, ummm, yeah, what’s that thing called again?  Oh yeah – VACATION!  You have to have fun for the both of us!

Doing Disney For Father’s Day – Making Dad’s Day Special

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here at all, but my family and I love Disney World.  Yeah, I have mentioned it, haven’t I?  We’ve spent every holiday at Disney World at least once or twice (or twelve times), and we’ve celebrated many occasions at Walt Disney World.  But the one holiday/occasion that often gets overlooked when we think of what to celebrate at Disney, it’s Father’s Day.  It’s at an odd spot on the calendar – usually right before or right after the end of school.  It’s hard to take kids out of school in the last week to get Dad to Disney, no matter how much he begs!  But let’s see how you can give your Dad a Disney Day – whether you can be at the park or not!

These tips below are for Dads lucky enough to be headed to Walt Disney World for their special day:

Let Dad Choose the Attractions

No matter how embarrassing he might be, this is your Dad, and it’s his day to celebrate.  If he wants to do the Laugh Floor, hoping to be THAT Guy, where he gets up, dances some Elaine from Seinfeld spastic and somewhat inappropriate dance, ya gotta let him.  My daughters and I have all vowed to never see the Laugh Floor show again with Jim in tow.  Even we’d have to make an exception for Father’s Day.

Let Dad Choose a Meal

Honestly, I choose the meal virtually every night of the week anyway, so it’s nice to give Dad a chance to choose something he’d like to eat!  There are restaurants at Walt Disney World for every Dad palate, so offer to make an Advanced Dining Reservation somewhere you know he’ll love.  Is Dad a big steak guy?  How about Le Cellier in Canada at EPCOT or the Yachtsman Steakhouse?  Perhaps your Papa likes pasta!  Check out Tutto Italia in Italy at EPCOT or Mama Melrose’s at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Your sports loving Dad might want to grab a bite at the ESPN Club, or maybe he’d like something a bit more adventurous like Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  From Seafood to Swahili – your Dad will eat like a king at Walt Disney World on Father’s Day!

And Now For Something Completely Different

If your Dad is anything like the one I have for my kids, he doesn’t ask to do much for himself when we go to Disney World.  He likes to let the kids and I choose events or activities, and as a result, we’ve done tea at the Grand Floridian (which our Dad loves, by the way); Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique; and princess breakfasts.  But there are some special things your Dad can do that you might not know about!

How about a chance to dive at EPCOT?  Or maybe your Dad is a train buff and would enjoy the Magic Behind the Steam Trains tour at the Magic Kingdom.  Had Dad always wanted to try a Segway?  They’ve got tours for that!

If your Dad likes to be front and center as opposed to behind the scenes, take him over to the Pirates League at the Magic Kingdom, where he can get made over as a scary pirate!


And if pirates are his thing, celebrate his evening with a Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage!  Dad will enjoy snacks at the Contemporary Resort, then a front row, lagoon view seat for the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom!  What a way to end an awesome Father’s Day!

There really is something special for every Dad at Walt Disney World.  Whether it’s a round of golf, water sports, a massage, or taking in a ball game at Wide World of Sports, your Dad will love Walt Disney World for Father’s Day!  Make this the year he gets that treat!

If You Could Take One Thing With You…

So, as you’re well aware, especially if you live somewhere that the six o’clock doomsday hour has already passed, God saw fit to spare us miserable mortals for the time being, allowing us yet another day to mess things up.  Well, damn.  I had an awesome outfit chosen for the looting party I’ve been invited to on Facebook for the day after, when those of us not among the chosen were going to get us a five finger discount on some HD TV.

But, let’s just say today HAD been the day.  And on your way up to Heaven, God said, “Choose one thing from your life on earth – not something living, because frankly, I don’t do diapers, I don’t walk dogs, and I don’t want to have to set yet another place at the dinner table – and bring it with you.  It’ll be nice to have that memory of home, and it will reduce the chances you’ll moan and complain about your accommodations or the food if you have something to keep you company.”

What are you bringing?

I’ve thought long and hard about all of my worldly possessions.  I have photographs that I cherish, jewelry that I love, books that I would never want to be without.  It’s been really tough to decide on just one thing, but after much thought, I’ve chosen my item.

I’m taking my pink Walt Disney World Moms Panel jacket.

I know – I hate pink, for the most part, so why would I want to spend eternity with only a pink jacket?

Here’s the rationale:

Disney World is where I have some of the most wonderful memories of my family.  Brighid as chef of the day at the Crystal Palace when she was four; Eilis learning to walk at EPCOT when she was a year old; Granuaile at 8 months old looking directly into the eyes of the Santa at Downtown Disney; and my honeymoon with the one and only true love of my life.  The jacket will remind me of the holidays we spent at Disney World, the occasions we celebrated, the meals we all ate together, laughing and joking – not worrying about cheerleading practice or dance classes or a scout meeting.

The jacket will also remind me that I was a competent and qualified enough writer that I was able to write answers that helped at least a few people plan a vacation that would give them some of the same wonderful feelings I get when I think of my cherished family Disney memories.  I can say that being on the Moms Panel was a true highlight of my 46 years on earth (okay, the end of the world is surely coming now – I’ve put my age out there in print!).

And the jacket is a symbol of the friendships I’ve made.  The weekend that I got that jacket, I met the 15 people who will be friends for life.  They are the people with whom I bonded more quickly than I have ever bonded with anyone else (except Jim).  When I look at the jacket, I will think of when we met; our weekend in Chicago; my visit with Joanne in NYC; Margaret’s birthday weekend at WDW.  And I will cherish every Facebook conversation, text message, and Tweet that we’ve shared.  Not to mention the bonus friends I’ve made as a result of being on the Moms Panel – Moms Panel Erin, Jud, Anthony, the other Moms Panel members, and those Skurvy Monkeys.

So, while I rarely ever wear the jacket; pink is not my color; and I would hope that I could find the darn thing in an instant if God said I could take it with me, the one thing I would want to depart from this mortal soil with is my jacket.  And all the memories that come with it.

 

One Year to Disney – Great Blog, Great Giveaways!

You know me – it’s all about Disney 🙂  I came across this blog through Facebook, mostly because they are always giving away some really cool stuff – including the latest giveaway of an embroidered Disney-fied tote bag – how wicked awesome are you going to look headed to the beach with something like this?

Sample of beach tote – contents not included in prize

You can head on over to this page http://tinyurl.com/43wxjqm to enter the contest yourself, but PLEASE take time to read some of the blog!  You’ll find not only the great giveaways, but all kinds of other money saving tips.  Who can’t use tips on how to save money?