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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

September's Destination . . .

It was the morning of March 4, 2015. My brother came into my work and told me that he and his fiancée had decided against going to Dominican Republic for their next trip. I was vaguely interested in this until his next sentence. We decided on Machu Picchu instead. I may have whipped my head around so fast that it caused whiplash. See, Machu Picchu is on my Ultimate Travel Bucket List and I've always wanted to go there. I mean it's Machu Picchu. How could you not want to go to this beautiful New World Wonder?

Can you really resist this view?

I think he was purposely building up the suspense to see my reaction. It's no secret how much I've wanted to go there. They invited me along to go with them!! The trip was booked by 4pm that afternoon. Woot Woot! This will be my first trip to South America, a whole new continent! I'm so excited. We booked this trip on Groupon through Gate 1. I had researched Gate 1 several months ago when I was putting my feelers out for planning a trip to Machu Picchu. I'm a pretty independent traveler, so I prefer not to travel with a travel groups. I feel like I can see and do more on my own, I can spend as much time as I want at a destination, and I have the flexibility to change my itinerary. Those options aren't necessarily available to you through a tour group, but I'm willing to give it a try.

It's a five day trip with airfare, hotels and most meals are included. This trip cost me right around $1000 with the additional tours we chose to add on. We will spend a full day at Machu Picchu. We chose to visit several of the markets and we chose to do a Peruvian cooking class with the foods we purchase at the markets. We also chose to eat dinner in a Peruvian home, visit some ancient sites.

Peru looks like a beautiful and diverse country. I really can't wait, and there is so much more to this country than just Machu Picchu. Unfortantely, we won't have time to visit more of the country. However, I plan to keep Peru on my list and one day visit the rest of the country.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hard Rock Hotel- Orlando, Fl

I can't tell you how many times I have stayed at this hotel. It is one of the 4 onsite hotels offered for those visiting Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.

We have annual passes to the theme parks and make several trips to Orlando a year. Our preferred onsite hotel is the Hard Rock Hotel, and there are several reasons for this:

- It is the closest onsite hotel in proximity to the theme parks
- They have really comfortable beds
-The rooms are designed for rock stars
-Friendly staff
-Great food options
-Huge Pool
- events are always going on

There are a transporation options for anyone staying at the onsite hotels:

- walking (hard rock path is the shortest and you end up right in front of Universal)
- the boat (we don't do this, because there is always a wait and always a line)
-rickshaw (you can pay for a rickshaw to take you to and from your hotel)
- Shuttle buses (we never take these)

What are the benefits of staying at a onsite hotel?

- Fl residents and annual pass holders get a discount on the rooms
- Early admission to Islands of Adventure!! (this allows hotel guest to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at 8am, before it opens to the public. We always take advantage of this as it reduces the wait time for the ride from 45-75 minutes to 15-30 minutes. We leave from Harry Potter and ride the other rides before their lines get long)
-One of the best advantages is your unlimited fast passes that are included for being a hotel guest. This is a huge money saver for families. I have seen the passes at $99 (unlimited rides) per person before and you get them for free! This pass allows everyone staying at the hotel to take advantage of the fast pass line and skip everyone waiting in the regular line. We have seen rides with a wait time of 45-75 minutes and we have waited for maybe 15 minutes in the fast pass line. Well worth it!
-Any purchases made in the theme parks can be delivered directly to your hotel room. You don't have to carry it around the parks with you!
- Hotel guest also get priority seating at selected restaurants throughout the resorts

Booking Tip: Don't forget to ask about annual pass/ Fl resident discounts! For non-florida residents don't forget to ask about AAA discounts!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Blarney Vale Bed and Breakfast

I have fallen in love with bed and breakfasts since my Europe trip. They are my now preferred choice of accommodation. Blarney Castle was on our list of attractions (and bucket lists) while we were in Ireland. We decided to stay a couple nights in Blarney and use it as a home base. We chose Blarney Vale as our b&b for that leg of the trip. It is an adorable b&b set atop a hill on the edge of town.

This was one of my favorite bed and breakfasts. Anne was so incredibly nice and welcoming. She is a wealth of information and can give you pointers in any direction. We left our luggage and went straight to Blarney Castle. Blarney Vale is about a 5 minute walk into the center of Blarney Village and Blarney Castle. You are offered coffee and tea on arrival! She recommended dinner options in town for us. The next morning she was kind enough to ask us of plans for the day. She then sat down and gave us directions, advise on where to go and what to do!

I was extremely surprised with the size of our room. It was by far the largest of our stay. We had a full and twin bed, and a ensuite bathroom. For those that are concerned there was a lock on our bedroom door, giving you some piece of mind.

This b&b offers free wifi, and it works! There a dining room for the guests and a guest lounge. Blarney has a private car park to park your car. This was a huge bonus for us! You do need to notify the hosts of this ahead of time.

All in all we highly recommend staying at this bed and breakfast if you are in the area. It was centrally located with friendly and fantastic hosts!