Monday, July 22, 2013

Orlando, FL

You may remember, but I went to a conference in NYC during Christmas time last year. I try to go to one conference a year to maintain my CPA license (boooring), but I at least try to pick them in fun places. This year, I picked Orlando, FL. I've been to both Universal and Disney World a few times before, but that was before the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was built. I went early on Sunday (my conference started Monday) in order to spend all day exploring Harry Potter's world. One extreme benefit of going alone is the fact that I was able to take the "Single Rider" line at a lot of attractions and zip through lines.

I was able to explore all of Harry Potter world in around 6 hours. I wandered around Hogsmeade, saw the Hogwart's Express, visited Honeyduke's, Zonko's and Hog's Head and grabbed a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks.  (For those interested, the best way to describe butterbeer is like a foamy cream soda.) It was super yummy, but extremely sweet. Please excuse all the iPhone photos - I didn't want to lug around my normal DSLR around the parks.

At Honeyduke's I bought a pumpkin juice, chocolate frog and some Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans to bring back to Jason. They had other candy from the movie as well - Fizzing Whizbees, Sugar Quills, Ton Tongue Toffee, Pepper Imps - it was so fun!

I rode the Dragon Challenge which was the only real roller coaster in the park. My favorite ride though was the Forbidden Journey. This was the longest line I waited in (30 min), but you get a chance to walk through the castle while you wait. I saw the Mirror of Erised, Dumbledore's office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the sorting hat and more. It was really all of the little details that made this park amazing. Even a trip to the bathroom was a fun experience thanks to a visit from Moaning Myrtle.

While I loved everything about it, I have to admit that it was rather small. I can't imagine spending a whole day here. It was great to go and live in Harry's world for a while though!

The only thing of note at the conference was listening Madeleine Albright speak - she is HILARIOUS! After the conference though, I got the nights to myself to explore. I bought an "after 4pm" ticket for Monday night and went to check out Magic Kingdom! Since the park was open until 11pm, I was still able to get in 7 hours of Disney fun. There was a new area called Fantasyland that I had to check out. My first stop though is always to the Main Street Confectionary to get a Mickey Mouse rice krispie treat.

I hit all the usual spots, but my favorite ride there will always be The Haunted Mansion. I saw the Electric Light Parade which is always fun! In my opinion, Disney is the best at night - you have the parade and fireworks and if you don't want to go to those, the rest of the park is SUPER empty! After the fireworks, the families with kids usually leave as well.

I really had fun and was glad I got the chance to explore Orlando. It might be a while before I got back to either park, but it really is magical every time I go!

Next up: I'll be going with my dad to my cousin's wedding in Simi Valley, CA (north of LA) in early August. I'm looking forward to seeing them get married and spending time with my family!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2nd Year: In Review

You may remember my post last year telling you where we went during Jason's 1st year at Southwest Airlines. Now, it's officially been 2 years since Jason started and we've definitely continued to take advantage of the perks. In addition to the US travel, we did a LOT of international travel during the past 12 months. We are pretty much pros at flying standby on other airlines. Also, we've mastered the art of packing in carry-ons (even for a 17 day SE Asia trip).

By the numbers:
10 countries visited
57,468 miles logged
130 hours in the air
2,886 pictures taken
20 bags of honey-roasted peanuts eaten

I've added a new tab ("Where We've Traveled") to the top of the blog so you can see everywhere where we've been, so I won't be repetitive here. We've gotten pretty used to being on flights and even better at traveling together in general. We've had some great flying experiences and a few not so great ones, but the trips have always been amazing and more than make up for any annoyances. We always fly standby and didn't encounter a full flight or anything that prevented us from making it back home. We've had some serious close calls, but we've been pretty lucky so far! I feel like I could write a whole book on surviving the non-rev system...

Plans are still up in the air (yes, pun intended), for Jason's 3rd year at SWA, but we have thrown around the idea of going somewhere in Central America or Mexico with the Gold Passes or AA points. We're also planning to make a trip to England and Scotland. There will be plenty of US travel mixed in there too (including 3 traveling weddings). In addition to the confirmed trips we are taking, you can also see our wish list for all of the trips we eventually plan on taking on the "Upcoming Travels" tab.

Whale's Tail - Belize
Isle of Skye - Scotland
Big Ben - London

My next trip is to Orlando, FL here in a few days for a work conference. I'm so excited about checking something off my bucket list - visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I'll let you know how butterbeer tastes! I'll also be swinging by Magic Kingdom for a night. After that trip, it's mainly traveling to weddings to round out 2013.

Well, I'm off to plan our trips for year 3. I'm sure it will be just as amazing as this past year. Here are some of our favorite moments from Jason's second year at Southwest Airlines:

Sound of Music bike tour in Salzburg, Austria
Aggies at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
 Picnic at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
Walking the Lavaux terraces in Montreaux, Switzerland
 Dinner along the Danube in Budapest, Hungary
In a tuk-tuk exploring Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Cruising through the karsts in Halong Bay, Vietnam
Tasting the sour mash at the Willett Bourbon Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky
Boulevard Brewing Company behind the scenes tour in Kansas City, MO
Feet in the sand in Key West, FL

Visiting the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand
On top of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Sante Fe, NM
 Hiking in Deep Cove in Vancouver, Canada

Cheers to Southwest Airlines in Koh Samui, Thailand