Planning an Orlando Holiday for Adults

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This Thanksgiving, I am going with the crowd to Orlando for 7 days.  It will be my first Thanksgiving in Orlando.  Unfortunately, the planning of it has had some ups and downs.

Flights

I started planning this trip in July.  I followed all the sage advice from other articles that it was best to book a flight close to Labor Day.  So, I booked the flight in early September and paid $250 for each seat from JFK to MCO on Delta. I watched the cost of flights stay basically the same before I purchased them.  Today, mid-October,  I can get a flight for $188 at a better time on JetBlue.   JetBlue added another direct flight.

Theme Parks

There are some really popular sites on how to navigate the theme parks and they sell tickets to them as well.  Guess what? It is cheaper to go through Working Advantage or Orlandovacation.com.

There is absolutely no reason to buy Theme Park tickets super early.  Waiting worked out, as I recently received a coupon discount for tickets purchased through Working Advantage.

2-day Park to Park tickets at Universal + 2-day Parkhopper to Disney will cost around $1000 for 2 people. You need a Park to Park ticket at Universal to ride the Hogwarts Express.

Dining

Thanksgiving in Orlando is so popular that reservations for dinner were closed for Victoria and Albert in July.  I was lucky to get a reservation on Thanksgiving Day to Jiko – The Cooking Place.  According to Zagat and TripAdvisor, it is a top place to eat on Thanksgiving.  There are no longer reservations available for Jiko on Thanksgiving day.

I also made reservations for Highway in the Sky Dine Around.  It is a progressive dining experience that uses the Walt Disney World Monorail for a culinary journey where each destination, a Disney Resort, offers a different experience. Disney asks for your credit card when you book either dining experience.  For the Highway in the Sky Dine Around, they charge you the full amount including gratuity. It costs approximately $350 for two people.

I have estimated that this trip may cost $1500 a person, not including hotel. However, it is really the choices I am making. This is not a budget trip. I will let you know how much it actually costs when I return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Should you take China Spree to China?

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I am researching cruises and land tours to determine the best way to see China.

There are drawbacks to each. On a land tour, you must pack and repack every few days. On a cruise, at times you have a long journey from port to a city. As an example, it is approximately 2.5 hrs from Tianjin port to Beijing.

I am still determining the best tour and then I will place it against the best cruise to see, which makes the most sense for me.

Chances are high that I will go to China by myself.  Therefore, I have to pick the best solo pricing.

On TripAdvisor, ChinaSpree continues to be discussed as a great option for the land tour. According to China Spree’s website, tours have no more than 20 people (usually 10-16).   Two tours from their 2018 catalog interest me, The Middle Kingdom tour ($1299) and China’s Best Treasures ($2499). As a solo, I need to add $400 to the Middle Kingdom and  $820 to the Best Treasures.mets_jv_2701_pg45_panda_jv_4

The Middle Kingdom tour is for the first-time traveler to China.  This itinerary presents China’s key highlights in 10 days, 2 days are travel days. The itinerary starts in Beijing with stops at the Summer Place and Zoo as well as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.  In  Xian, you visit China’s first emperor’s 6,000 life-sized Terra-cotta Warriors. The tour ends in Shanghai. There are also optional tours to Hangzhou and Suzhou. This itinerary has a lot of optional tours.  If you take all the optional tours the cost is an additional $480. For a solo, this itinerary could cost ($1299 + $480 + $400)  $2179.  This is at the low end and does not include airfare and additional meals.

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The China’s Best Treasures tour is 13 days, 2 days are travel days. This tour has inclusive pricing and travelers get to explore five destinations. The itinerary includes the same sights as the previous tour plus Chengdu, Longsheng, and Guilin. In Chengdu, you see pandas. In Guilin,  you cruise on the Li River. In Longsheng, there is an exclusive hiking tour to the hidden Dragon Spine Terraces, inhabited by minority nationalities.  For a solo traveler, this tour costs about $3319.

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Of the two tours, I think the Middle Kingdom tour is the best one through China Spree. Several tour options are given for Xian, Beijing, and Shanghai which allows a traveler to customize this tour to their preferences.  The Best Treasures of China is expensive for the experiences. I don’t understand how a tour company would take you to Chengdu and only show you pandas.  Chengdu is in the Sichuan Province, the place for Sichuan cuisine and a short distance from LeShan, the giant Buddha. I can’t imagine going to Chengdu and paying to miss those experiences.

 

Marriott Surf Club in Aruba

20170830_080029The Marriott Surf Club is one of  4  beachside resorts that Marriott owns in Aruba. Two are timeshares, the Surf and Ocean club and the other two are actual resorts, Stellaris and Ritz Carlton. They are all side by side.

The Surf Club is a timeshare which means at some point in a stay you will listen to a 90-minute sales presentation.

I spent a week at the Surf Club in August and it was a very nice stay. I was the guest of an owner and did not have to sit through a sales presentation.

Anyway, this is a safe, family-oriented resort with clean, comfortable rooms, an excellent gym, a huge waterslide,  the winding “Lazy River” pool (possibly the best pool in Aruba) and a Serenity area for those over 21.

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Aruba is a quiet island that is perfect for relaxation. If there was a hopping dance club. I missed it. I saw the drunk bus which stopped by the resort each afternoon. However, that was it.

 

Delta First Class, NY to Aruba

In June,  we purchased tickets to fly to Aruba. At that time, it only cost $50 dollar more per person to fly first class. We purchased mixed class tickets, first class to Aruba and economy on return.

It was dumb.

About two weeks prior to leaving I was trying to change the seats but to no avail.

Anyway, I was really excited about the flight. However, this flight was the same as domestic first class, which is the same as international premium economy.  It includes a better seat, a meal, free drinks, and attendants that are nice.

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On this Delta flight, my mimosa was served in a plastic cup and my earphones were not noise-canceling.

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Thankfully,  I had enough mimosas that those things didn’t bother me.  I even thought the below was a decent picture.

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Would I purchase a first class ticket to Aruba again?  At $50 more, it pays for itself. Checked luggage costs $25 and a meal at the airport costs at least $25 if you have drinks (alcohol).

 

 

 

Planning Thanksgiving 2017

Every year, American’s are faced with what to do with the holiday season. Should they deal with extended family members or should they go away?

Most years, I make the decision to go away and enjoy myself.  It is what makes me happy and it saves me from cooking for ungrateful family members.

But where should you go?

For people on the East Coast, Europe is a great option. For those on the West Coast, Asia is the best option.

  • New York City to Paris, for $605—leaving Tuesday and returning Monday, Nov. 27.
  • Washington D.C to Athens, for $583—leaving Monday and returning Wednesday, Nov. 29.
  • Los Angeles to Bangkok, for $530—leaving Tuesday and returning Tuesday, Nov 28.
  • Seattle to Beijing, for $504—leaving Thursday and returning Friday, Dec 1.

The most expensive option is actually going somewhere in the continental United States.

I am not traveling internationally for Thanksgiving. I am going to the happiest place in the world.

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Planning for this trip starts in September when I return from Aruba.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John F. Kennedy Airport Parking until September 2017

Unless you are leaving someone home, part of your vacation involves deciding how to get to the airport. If you have a vehicle, you also need to decide where to leave your car.

I have lived in the New York City tri-state area for years, usually leave from JFK and almost always park my car at a lot near the airport.evening traffic at airport

However, every time  I travel, I spend time looking at alternate transport options to the airport. Should I leave my car in the garage and take the train to the plane? Should I take an airport shuttle service from my house? Should I park at the airport? Should I park at a lot near the airport?

After the search, I usually decide to park at Park Plus Airport Parking.

I am now used to handing over the keys to my car. Of course, that is only after making sure I know where every imperfection is first.  I am also used to a quick drop off but a  longer than I like pickup after a return trip.

Why do I do this? Parking at JFK costs from $18 a day in long-term to $39 a day in short-term parking.

This summer I may get a chance to park at the airport. Until September 8, 2017, the Port Authority of NY and NJ  is offering coupon discounts for JFK to park at the airport.     Unfortunately, you can not reserve space in the long-term parking lot at JFK.  So, have a backup plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hands-On Japan Tour 2018

Last year I posted about my love for  Hands on Japan, a tour by Inside Japan. The tour is offered twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. Unfortunately, the 2017 trips sold out almost 1 year in advance of departure and I was unable to go.

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Last week I thought now is a good time to book for next spring.  However, upon reviewing the trip for 2018, I noted some changes:

  1. The trip has gone up in price over $1000.  In 2017, it costs $3935.  In 2018, it will cost $5332.
  2. The capsule hotel in Kyoto will be replaced by a regular hotel. In my opinion, this is an improvement.

This morning, I chatted with the sales team at Inside Japan about the price differential.

I was told it was due to the exchange rate but they still think this tour is a great value.  I did not reply.

Inside Japan is a British tour company and has converted the price of the trip from British pounds to US dollars. Although the trip seems to be well organized, it isn’t a value for non-British travelers at the increased price.  There is also an additional $300 conversion charge from the pound to the dollar.