Archive for the Category »Travel «

Oct
28th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Ways to Maximize Your Frequent Flier Miles with Children
Peru, Traveling with Kids

Peru, Traveling with Kids

Family travelers – you know this. It is hard to find multiple open seats for families using frequent flier miles. You may only be able to use miles on one or two tickets instead of the whole family because the seats allocated for awards use are all booked up.

If this happens to you, make sure you do it right in order to maximize your award seats. Here’s how:

Always have the most frequent flier on the paying tickets – that would most likely be the adult(s) in the party. In other words, since you probably travel more than your kids, pay for YOUR ticket, and put the kids on the awards tickets, that way you accumulate even more miles on your account for a trip.

The tricky part is, if you are booking online, airlines won’t let you book a free ticket for a minor unless there is an adult flying with them. For example, if I try to book free tickets for all my three kids, and pay for my ticket, they are separate transactions, so the website reads it as the kids would be flying alone.

(Unaccompanied minors are a whole different story in booking, and require a service charge.)

But don’t give in and put the adult names in the free ticket booking information. Pick up the phone and call the airlines. Make the reservation on the phone – I’ve never had an airline charge me the fee per ticket for reserving over the phone because they are giving me a service that the website is not set up to do. Book your kids on the award ticket, and pay for yours – again to accrue more miles to your account.

Also – many people don’t know this but there are airline loyalty programs that allow families to share their points and miles within a household by transferring them for free.

Here are the ones I know about and should be checked:

British Airways:  The Avios program allows members to pool miles between up to 7 residents at the same address.

Etihad Airways (Airline of United Arab Emirates) The Etihad Guest Program allows family members to pool miles in one account.

Hawaiian Air: The Hawaiian Miles program has a “share miles”  feature, but only to holders of their credit or check cards.

Japan Airlines: The Family Club allows members to share miles between relatives at different households. There is a $30 fee per family that is charge to the account of the designated “Primary Member”.

Korean Air: Immediate family members can combine miles to issue awards.

Be smart about your valuable miles.. especially when it comes to something as expensive as booking flights for multiple people. Ask questions, and book the miles far in advance.

Happy travels!

 
Oct
17th
  Hotel of the Week: A Place Where Teens Will Roll Their Eyes… in Amazement

So I am officially a parent who doesn’t have a clue. According to my 13 year old son, anyway. More than ever I am getting the exasperated look from him like I am from a different planet. Here is the conversation yesterday, as I was helping him with his science experiment that I hadn’t fully read yet.

Him: “Mom, how should I measure my geyser?”

Me: “Geyser… what geyser? ”

Him: ” The one that goes up”

Me: “What do you mean? I thought you needed to drop Mentos into a Diet Coke from a distance?”

Him, eyes rolling “Mom, everyone knows when you drop Mentos in a Diet Coke it causes a geyser – it’s OBVIOUS. Nevermind. ”

Guess I must have missed that viral video.

I thought about many things… including how long does attitude this last… and, just because my life with years of this flashed in front of me, what kind of summer vacation would keep teens happy.

So I am updating an article I wrote about wilderness lodges in Alaska – where I met many teens who loved the adventure.

Tutka Bay WIlderness Lodge, from Withinthewild.com

Tutka Bay WIlderness Lodge, from Withinthewild.com

Visiting a wilderness lodge is not as easy as taking a cruise through the Last Frontier, and is not your typical hotel.  There will most likely be a lot of driving to get there…but what a novel way to see the country. The wilderness lodge offers activities as well as meals and a place to stay. It is exactly the kind of travel destination I love to recommend: Sort of off the beaten path…great for kids…lots to do in the great outdoors.

Kids who are used to being plugged in and electronically entertained are probably going to be happier on a cruise, where there is never a shortage of modernization. However, if you want to get your kids away from that…my driving trip through  Alaska exposed me to SO many cool things, and I felt closer to nature. Granted, a cruise ship can take you through passages that you normally wouldn’t get to see….and there are some cruise lines that have biologists on board to teach kids about their environment  – so a ship is not all pools and play stations.

Tutka Bay Wilderness Lodge

Tutka Bay Wilderness Lodge

But the most memorable and teen-attractive thing I encountered on  my Alaska by road trip  is that I stayed at  Tutka Bay Wilderness Lodge. Out in the middle of no freaking where, this place is so peaceful. And rugged. We spent some time in Homer, than took a water taxi to the lodge.

scenery

It is located at the southern end of Kachemak Bay on the Kenai Peninsula… on eleven acres. There is a main lodge, and six private guest accommodations, so you really feel like you are spending time with your family. The lodge offers organized excursions, so it makes taking day adventures easier.

img_0546_edited

We went bear viewing…kayaking with otters…and deep sea fishing. After a full day out in the fresh air, there are hearty home cooked meals and a hot tub awaiting. A family with teenagers and pre teens was staying there the same time I was , and the kids said it was their best vacation EVER. I was sold.

There are other wilderness lodges in Alaska…  they are unique to the region. Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge is high end and nice I understand, but I liked the owners at Tutka Bay.  One website to check for other wilderness lodges is www.alaska.org/where-to-stay/wilderness-lodges or  Withinthewild.com

I’m not going to act like everything is easy about traveling this way  – it is a lot more work getting around the huge state of Alaska this way, driving or flying from town to town..it’s not like there are places to stop and ask for directions in the middle of practically nowhere. And not a lot of convenient restaurants. So if that doesn’t sound like an adventure, or if you have really young kids then maybe a cruise is for you. Or stick to one place like Denali National Park. But the teens I met loved it.

From Alaska.org

From Alaska.org

Alaska’s not a luxurious place. It is unpolished, but beautiful. You will find your soul there. There is no Four Seasons… no hotel spa. Not that kind of trip…but wonderful and real. Definitely take the kids. Best time to go, since kids are out of school and weather is nice, is summer – and Tutka Bay is only open May-Sept.  – “OBVIOUSLY”. :)

www.tutkabaylodge.com

 
Oct
14th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Los Cabos One Month After Hurricane Odile

 

From KRQE.com

From KRQE.com

One month ago today, Hurricane Odile ripped through Baja California,  closing Los Cabos International Airport, badly damaging resorts and city infrastructure, and leaving residents worried about their future.

I know so many travelers who had trips to Cabo San Lucas planned for Thanksgiving or Christmas break, and weren’t sure how to proceed afterward. Should they cancel their reservations? Some of the hotels weren’t responding to phone calls due to power outages. At that time, it really seemed like things would not be better quickly – shoot, there are spots along the Atlantic Coast  are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy in 2012!

I am happy to report that my sources who were in Cabo during the storm tell me the government has acted quickly to restore normalcy – some flights have resumed, some hotels are reopened, and things are looking almost back to normal in Los Cabos.

According to Cabo San Lucas Tours, here are the airlines and locations from which there are resumed flights to Cabo… and also a list of soon to be flights.

Already Operating:

Atlanta (Delta)
Houston (United)
Los Angeles (Alaska)
Mexico City (AeroMexico, Interjet)
Salt Lake City (Delta)
San Francisco (United)

Non-Stop Flights Resume:

October 15:  Orange County (Southwest)
October 18: Dallas, Chicago (American), Denver (Southwest), Charlotte (US Air)
October 23: San Francisco (Virgin)
October 26: Los Angeles (United), Calgary & Vancouver (WestJet)
October 31: Dallas, San Diego (Spirit)
November 1: Denver (Frontier, United)
December 13: Newark (United)

Security after the looting is reportedly back in check, and many popular restaurants are open. For golf enthusiasts, some golf courses are open.

But – some of the luxury hotels that were hit hard aren’t opening until December or next year, so stay in touch, or check either of these websites for more information and the full list of hotel updates: http://www.cabosanlucastours.net/Hurricane_Odile/   or  http://www.loscabosguide.com/

Photos of Cabo taken recently are on this blog - http://www.cabovillas.com/blog/?p=2904

The best thing we can do to help the people of Cabo, who depend so much on our tourist dollars, and are dealing with their own personal damages, is to spread the word, and if so inclined… plan a trip!

 

 

 
Oct
07th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Seats You Should Never Choose on the Plane

Take a good look at the below online seating chart of the economy section of US Airways. Pay close attention to row 21.

Airline online seating chart

Airline online seating chart

Do you see how there is a complete empty space on the left side of row 21, where there are usually seats? Be very very careful – if you choose the aisle seat on the right in row 21 you will be sitting next to…… a BATHROOM. Yep – you heard me… within arm’s reach you could be grabbing a tissue from the lavatory without even getting up.

It is misleading because there is NO indication that empty space is indeed a bathroom. (And the most undesirable place on the plane)

On the plane, there is no curtain, not any sort of barrier between that bathroom (and that airplane bathroom aroma) and you. And… once everyone on the plane has had his or her complimentary beverages, there will not be a barrier between you and all the full-bladdered passengers standing in line either.

Row 22 is also affected because people will be standing there waiting for the lavatory, and invade your space since it is an exit row and there is room for them to stand. Also in row 22, like any exit row – there is no tray in front of you if you like to work on a laptop…and no place at your feet to store an extra bag. But if you like a lot of leg space, there is plenty.

This plane is an Airbus A321. I am not sure if other airlines that fly this plane have the same configuration – I can tell you that American’s new A321s do not have this configuration, but do have some other space problems.

Bottom line: Anytime you are searching for seats, note the empty spaces, or anything suspicious. Double check with SeatGuru.com – that website indicates the space in row 21 is a bathroom. There should be a marker as well on any airline’s website that the space on row 21, or anywhere, is a bathroom. Little icons of men and women, something!

Even the flight attendants at the gate didn’t know what that empty space was – one told me it was where the attendants pull up emergency seats. You have to be a proactive traveler to make the journey a lot smoother.

Have a great day!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Oct
02nd
  The Ebola Virus and International Travel

Just because I travel for work doesn’t mean I  sometimes don’t have the same irrational fears as the regular air passenger who may not travel that much.

photoFor instance – I just flew on an international flight where two bathrooms were completely shut down because two people got sick in them.

This was before the news of the first person being diagnosed in the US with Ebola, so I didn’t worry a lot about it then – But let me tell you I have certainly thought it about it since the news broke.

I don’t know if any special precautions were taken in cleaning the area later , or if the sick passengers were questioned about their health or travel history to places like West Africa. And I know experts say it is unlikely someone exhibiting symptoms would fly because he or she would be too ill, but I was on a long 10 hour flight.. who’s to say symptoms can’t develop within that time frame?

Let’s look at the facts of the US Ebola case and the safety questions that are emerging:

–According to the NBC station in Dallas, TX, the Ebola patient in Dallas flew from Nigeria to Brussels on Sept 19, on Brussels Air… had a 7 hour layover… then flew  United flight #951 to Dulles… & from Dulles to Dallas on United flight #822.

–He didn’t exhibit any symptoms then… BUT reportedly  had just helped carry a sick girl with Ebola to the doctor a week before. The girl died the next day.

This makes me ask: Are airlines questioning passengers from West Africa well about their health, or potential contact with other Ebola patients before letting them fly? US airlines are federally prohibited from allowing anyone with serious contagious disease from flying – but what about foreign airlines? (And what makes Ebola difficult is that, the infected patient may not know yet he or she has Ebola.)

And questioning isn’t enough apparently: Latest reports are saying the Dallas patient was questioned at airport and LIED about his exposure to Ebola.

From facingchina.me

From facingchina.me

More rigorous screening is needed. Looking back at the SARS outbreak in 2002…. I had to have my temperature taken at Hong Kong’s airport before being allowed in the country … shouldn’t there be screening of this sort of passengers coming from Ebola infected areas? Fevers are one of the first symptoms to appear. I have seen photos of some airports like Lagos, Nigeria doing it, but are all?

What about requiring a very recent doctor’s note before boarding – indicating blood was tested for Ebola antibodies or other proteins that may be present in the disease? (I am not a doc so don’t know if those would be present before symptoms occur.)

I have read all the reports that say it is highly unlikely for Ebola to spread here because we can control it much better. But I can’ t help but think about the holes in the system (hospital NOT asking Dallas patient if he had been near Ebola!!) and more potential ways Ebola could spread since international travel is more commonplace:

–I  read on World Health Organization’s website that Ebola can be transmitted from person to person by exposure to MATERIALS that come in contact with infected bodily fluids. Funny because as I was sleeping on my plane seat, I was still wondering how often the airlines clean the upholstery on which I was lying.

–Also – think of the airport security screeners who have to go through people’s luggage and could possibly be exposed.  Nasal sprays,  eye drops, toothbrushes all come into contact with bodily fluids, and these are items with which airline screeners come in contact. If they wear gloves, do they change them between each screening? The pace of the lines makes me think not.

–If an unknowingly infected person stays at a hotel , then gets sick – there could be traces all over the room  – areas we all know don’t always get cleaned – the remote controls, light switches, door knobs, etc.

Granted – I am being a bit over the top, as most medical reports again, say it is highly unlikely to spread in the US because of our advanced medical care and ability to control the spread. But we do need to examine the role of  international travel in prevention, and can’t understand why we aren’t instituting more precautions. Reporters returning from reporting on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa said they met very few questions from customs agents after telling them had traveled to infected areas.

The stock market also reflected all these fears, as airline stocks took a dip, and companies that produce hazmat suits were driven up. Hopefully this Dallas case will be a wake up call: All airlines, airports, and the CDC,  need to actively work together to keep us healthy.

For more info on travel and Ebola  - http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/ebola

 
Sep
16th
  Top Travel Spot Cabo San Lucas Gets Slammed: How to Travel During Hurricane Season

“Demolished paradise” is how one observer describes Cabo San Lucas after the beach resort town was hit by an unprecedented hurricane – Odile. The storm roared through Monday with 125 mph winds, causing all sorts of infrastructure damage and making a mess out of luxury hotels. There were hundreds of injuries reported, and thousands of tourists evacuated, but at the time of this writing, no deaths.

Many people without school age children travel this time of year called shoulder season – and with good reason.  In hurricane-prone areas especially, prices are generally lower, and there aren’t the crowds. We take a chance traveling now when we book near the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mexico from June-November, with most hurricanes historically hitting after August.

If you do decide to travel during this time, there are some precautions you can take to  minimize your risks.

–Purchase travel insurance and make sure you’re covered in the case that you must cancel or cut short your trip due to a hurricane. Shop around for a policy that meets your needs.  Some insurance providers sell a plan called “Cancel For Any Reason, ” which really follows it’s name. If your cruise ship is rerouted due to weather to places you’ve already been and don’t want to see them again… or some other reason….you can usually cancel two days before departure. It depends on what kind of plan you bought as to how much money you get back.

I highly recommend it so you don’t lose money you spend on this vacation for which you’ve been saving. Typically travel insurance costs 10% of trip.

—Ask if your hotel has a hurricane policy, or some sort of evacuation plan

—Stay aware of the weather. Don’t completely abandon reality. Check with the National Hurricane Center website.

—Leave a detailed itinerary with family member or friend.

—If this is an out of country trip, register with your country’s embassy. Also, think about buying an international calling plan so you can make emergency calls or texts if needed.

Remember, there are always risks when we travel, and the potential for unexpected hazards. The best thing you can do is be prepared.

Meanwhile, our thoughts are with the people of Baja California  – According to AccuWeather. com Odile will “continue to bring life-threatening impacts, such as significant flooding and tropical storm-force winds.”

 

 
Sep
11th
  Here’s to you New York, on this Day of Remembrance – NY on $20 a day
Sept 11 Memorial, NY

Sept 11 Memorial, NY

It’s been 13 years. And New York City, as well as the rest of our country, has come a long way… even though we are still battling the forces that instigated the deadliest act of terror on United States soil Sept. 11, 2001.

New York City is vibrant again. New Yorkers are strong… all kinds of ethnicities and religions walking the streets together seemingly in peace. I often marvel how a city that to me is so nostalgic, can also be so avant-garde at the same time.

But we all know – we definitely pay for that energy… that no where like it vibe… those one of a kind experiences the city provides.

New York City one of the world’s most expensive places to visit. Fall is a gorgeous time to go!  So here’s a full day in New York that is pretty contained to one area, and should cost you less than $20 per person, not including hotel room.

Here’s to you New York, on this day of remembrance.

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

Start the day by visiting the new 9/11 Memorial that just opened in Lower Manhattan, in the footprints of the Twin Towers. It is free to visit and walk around the plaza. The two waterfalls in the place of the towers are the largest man made waterfalls in North America, and the sound of the water forcefully flowing downward, provides a loud white noise effect that might otherwise be an empty, sad silence. It is powerful, and the names of all those who died on Sept 11 here, at the Pentagon, and in Penn are inscribed in bronze around the twin memorial pools. (As well as those who died on Feb 26 1993.)

If you bring drinks, or food, note that there are no trash cans around for security reasons. So please don’t litter – you’ll just have to hold on to your trash.

9/11 Memorial Museum, NYC

9/11 Memorial Museum, NYC

Over the budget: The Sept 11 Museum beside the Sept 11 Memorial is NOT free. You can purchase your tickets months in advance to guarantee your time of visit – there are long lines if you don’t. Adults are $24 to visit.

It is a question many parents ask me – did I bring my kids in? Tough decision because you want your kids to learn from this tragedy… yet you have to know your kids. My youngest had just turned 9, and being the sensitive guy he is, we decided not to go in. There are some moving exhibits, multi-media displays, and narratives. Honestly, our other concern was that we didn’t want to make him afraid of flying. We can take them in a few years.

photo 5

Near the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is the Brooklyn Bridge. You can walk to the pedestrian ramp at the end of Centre St and stroll all the way over the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn for free.

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge

Great views of the city. It can be crowded, more than 4000 pedestrians cross daily, so avoid the weekends if possible.

Brooklyn Bridge, NY

Brooklyn Bridge, NY

The bridge is a National Historic Landmark, and when it opened in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge at the time. It was a sign of optimism, and source of fascination because of the new technology used to build it. It is a beautiful structure from many angles.

After working up an appetite, make your way to Chinatown near the bottom of the bridge back in Manhattan. Yes, there are many uber-expensive world class restaurants in New York… but don’t skip your chance to try something authentic and cheap in one of the country’s most bustling Chinese neighborhoods.

Cheap Eats in Chinatown, NYC

Cheap Eats in Chinatown, NYC

My nephews who live here were our tour guides, and knew the good places to eat and visit. It isn’t glamorous, and the streets don’t sparkle, but you feel like you’ve entered a different world where the kids will enjoy seeing all sorts of interesting items – we ate at a top rated dim sum restaurant that was very good – and very cheap!

Chinatown Menu

Chinatown Menu

Chinatown NYC cheap eats

Chinatown NYC cheap eats

If you can see the prices on my blurry menu , LOL, you will see some dishes are $4.00. You eat family styles so you can try a number of dishes – great for the kids to discover what they like.

Central Park, NYC

Central Park, NYC

There’s no better place in New York City than Central Park. One can visit every trip and still discover a new detail.

Cannoli in Central Park, NYC

Cannoli in Central Park, NYC

It is the heart and soul of the city that never sleeps… and one can actually catch a nap here pretty easily if he or she isn’t too busy with all the other activities.

Childrens' Zoo, Central Park NYC

Childrens’ Zoo, Central Park NYC

The Childrens’ Zoo is a highlight, as well as Turtle Pond.

You’ll have to take the subway or catch a cab from Lower Manhattan to get here…  http://www.centralparknyc.org/

NYC used book vendors

NYC used book vendors

If you have some money leftover after a very inexpensive day, look for the used book vendors that sell everything from cookbooks to classics along the perimeter of  Central Park. You can find some treasures at great prices… perhaps to read while relaxing in the park while the kids run around.

If you plan a longer stay on a budget, there are definitely more free things to do in NYC – you just have to research and look for them.  www.nycgo.com/free/

“One hand in the air for the big city..Street lights, big dreams, all lookin’ pretty.. No place in the world that can compare.. Put your lighters in the air…”

 

 

 

 
Sep
09th
  Money Money Money…While Traveling

It’s always confusing traveling to a foreign land to face a different currency and exchange rate. But there are always other little fiscal factors that can contribute to whether you will make the most of your money while traveling.

Here are some solutions to save you cents and sanity on your sojourn.

From turkeytravelplanner.com

From turkeytravelplanner.com

1) ATMs: I can’t tell  you how many times I’ve come across ATMs that only have numbers on the keypad. If your PIN is a word comprised of letters, you better memorize the number arrangement as well….

2) Before you leave for your trip, don’t call only your credit card companies to tell them you will be abroad – call your bank for your debit card as well. They most likely will ask you where you will be each day so they don’t shut down your card. And make sure your card doesn’t expire while you are away!! Check that date or you will be out of luck.

From newsonline.com.pk

From newsonline.com.pk

3) I’ve actually had this happen to me: A foreign ATM ate my card. Luckily, it was attached to a bank, so I was able to go to the bank for help in retrieving it. However, I had to wait until the next day because it was after business hours. My tip: Don’t use stand alone ATMs if possible – wait until you see one attached to a bank. And use them during business hours in case you need help! Just think if it had been my last day and was leaving for the airport the next morning.

4) I got slammed with some big ATM fees this summer traveling in Europe. I didn’t know how much I was going to spend, and kept taking out small amounts to avoid having any left over Euros. However, check to see what your transaction fees AND currency conversion fees are. (It is ridiculous!) It may pay to take out large sums rather than get charged for many visits for smaller amounts.

Again – happy travels!

 

 
Aug
13th
  It’s Not Too Late To “Travel” To Italy This Summer…

It has been a summer full of travel. I am grateful, but it has also taken me a while to transition back to reality between trips.

So when I took my kids to see Pompeii just last week, I was energized by the ability to get there and back in one day, and still see a truly fascinating bit of history.

pompeii-banner

That’s right – “Pompeii: The Exhibition” is on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles through January 4, 2015. For those of you visiting Los Angeles this summer, and for those of you looking for one last outing with your kids before school – or even on the weekend – this is one I recommend.

I realize I may be biased because I’ve been to the real city of Pompeii and am utterly amazed by the ruins, but I think this exhibition does a spectacular job of organizing the event in small rooms with engaging displays and audio guides that kept even a group of 8 kids interested…including one reluctant teenager.

Quick history lesson: In the year 79 AD Pompeii virtually disappeared beneath ash spewed by Mount Vesuvius. What is remarkable is that the town wasn’t dug up and rediscovered until the 1700s!!! The very same area that nature destroyed, it also preserved under thick layers of ash.

If you visit, you will be amazed at how well some things were preserved for so long. You will also be undoubtedly disturbed by the terror through which these residents lived in a short 24 hour period – in that many hours, nothing was left alive within a certain radius of the volcano.

On display are more than 150 artifacts straight from the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy, through which you will not only learn about the volcanic destruction, but life and customs in a Roman city. Much of what we know of the Roman Empire comes from the ruins of Pompeii.

Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Calif Science Center, LA

Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Calif Science Center, LA

You can see items once belonging to opulent villas….

photo 2

.. Italian paintings, which emerged unscathed after an eruption that brought down buildings…

photo 3

and mosaic floors that were still in their places.

photo 4But the most moving items were the casts made in the exact twisted and sometimes convoluted form of bodies that were found- exactly in the shape they took at the time of death. Sadly, many of the people perished from the immense heat and noxious gases that accompanied the eruption.

There is a great movie at the end of the exhibition that documents eruption day hour by hour …. and of course, a gift shop and play area at the final exit.

photoOur little gladiators did dress up in the play area, but didn’t soon forget the compelling story of Pompeii documented and displayed here.

Tickets are available online – but you must purchase at least three hours before the time you’d like to go, otherwise buy in person and avoid the online service charge.

https://www.californiasciencecenter.org/Exhibits/SpecialExhibits/pompeii/pompeii.php

 

 
Jul
08th
  Harry Potter Opening & What They Don’t Tell You About Visiting Universal Orlando

The brand new Universal Orlando attraction, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley, is officially open as of this morning! Enthusiastic fans showed up at 4 AM EST for an 8 AM EST open… and lines at the time of this writing were reportedly 5 hours to check out the second Harry Potter themed adventure at Universal Orlando in Florida.

This latest Harry Potter themed area is at Universal Studios, where as the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade is at Universal Islands of Adventure – the sister park walking distance away. It becomes less confusing once you visit. And visit recently, I did!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Universal Orlando

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley Universal Orlando

Here is a photo of what it looks like, without any of the barricades.

Kings Cross Station, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley Universal Orlando

Kings Cross Station, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley Universal Orlando

There are plenty of articles to describe Diagon Alley, and what the fanfare is about, but I want to share with you things I discovered about which you may not read.

1) Because Walt Disney World Resort is also in Orlando, and offers so many amazing resorts of all different price points and themes, many visitors stay at a Disney hotel and then venture over to Universal. BUT  – if you stay at a Universal upper-end, premium resort, you get perks that even Disney hotels don’t offer to it’s own parks.

For instance – —Fastpasses to all the rides except Harry Potter.

—-Early admittance to Harry Potter Hogsmeade (not the newer Harry Potter Diagon Alley) . Enter the park an hour before open to experience one of the most popular attractions there.

—-$20 off ticket price that you would pay buying at the park

2) Having said that, let me dig a little deeper into those perks. You will read different things on various forums as to whether the Fastpasses are worth it. I found them to be worth it. Lines to rides were significantly shorter. If you stay only one night at a Universal resort, you still get two fast passes if you buy a 2 day ticket.

3) The other perk: Early admittance to Harry Potter Hogsmeade: Not worth it. And don’t be fooled into thinking you get on all the rides with this early admittance – just Harry Potter Hogsmeade.

We went in the park the hour early, and there was still an hour wait for the Harry Potter rides.  But – we were there for two nights, and each night at around 8PM we could walk right up to the rides, with NO line. It is very cool to ride the Harry Potter Dragon Challenge roller coaster watching the sun set by the way. So sleep in and visit Hogsmeade later in the day.

4) If you visit in summer when it is very very hot and humid, start at the park around 2 PM… It is so pleasant right around 4 until closing, and the lines were a lot shorter, and you can still see a lot of the parks.

photo

5) It can rain a lot in summer. Some roller coasters close in the rain – so AS SOON as you see some dark clouds, head for some of the indoor rides, especially at Universal Studios where there are many 3D rides. The lines for those attractions grow longer once the other rides close temporarily for rain.

6) Some of the food concessions don’t stay open until closing, but City Walk, the stores and restaurants you walk through to get to Islands of Adventure stays open late. If you don’t want to leave the park to go to City Walk, plan accordingly.

7) This is my OMG tip: Parents, pace yourselves. There are SO many 3D rides and coasters that shake and spin you, if you go on all of them like I did, you may be feeling woozy. But don’t miss Spiderman. Avant -garde when it opened about a decade ago, it is still my favorite ride :) For detailed information about the fan-crazed opening to Diagon Alley, and details about the attraction, visit www.Orlandoinformer.com  or www.Universalorlando.com

Happy summer travels!