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We’re Back

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Just a teaser picture for my future posts about the lovely country of Slovenia.

We are back. Sorry to have left you hanging for so long, but we have been occupied. Rae took her children on an unplanned trip (evacuation) to escape the wrath of Hurricane Irma. Fortunately there was a house to return to, minus a few shingles and a screened porch, a small inconvenience compared to other’s damage. Then OraLynn came to play Mary Poppins to the boys while Tim and I headed to Slovenia for a much needed adults only vacation. As she found out, there is little time to blog when running my circus. Now everything has settled down and I have lots of great photos and stories from my trip. So check back soon.

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BATHROOMS ABROAD: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE TRULY DISGUSTING

No pictures with this post.  LOL.

Let’s get into the practical aspect of travel and a question that you will hear from your family more than one time during your trip – Where’s the bathroom?  Ah yes, international bathroom usage is a unique experience.  Who am I kidding, sometimes it just plain sucks. Different countries have different ideas about sanitation and public access to facilities. Here are some tips for making this experience less heinous and uncomfortable.  I live in Mexico so I’ll focus mostly on that.

First of all, no matter what country you are visiting, know how to ask “Where is the bathroom” in that country’s language.  Even if you can’t fully understand the directions you are given, there will be a lot of pointing, so you can have a general idea and figure it out.  In MEXICO you say “donde esta el bano?”, pronounced “dohnday esta el bonyo”.  You also need to know the words for Men and Women, as that will prevent the inevitable embarrassment of walking into the wrong bathroom.  In Mexico they use Hombres for Men and Mujeres for Women.  You’ll also see Caballeros for Men and Damas for Women.

The bathrooms of department stores, malls, hotels and nice restaurants are very similar to our American bathrooms.  They will usually have soap and water and toilet paper.  Some have a baby changing station.  Warning: You will see a garbage can in every stall that is filled with used toilet paper.  Yes, it’s disgusting, but here’s why they do that.  The water pressure in Mexico is not the same as the US, so many people, especially from the poorer neighborhoods, don’t flush the used paper. They throw it away. Some bathrooms even have signs in the stalls asking you not to flush the Papel (paper). I flush it anyway.  Sometimes you’ll have to flush it twice. And always hold the handle down until the toilet is almost flushed.

Sometimes the toilet paper provided is not in the stalls.  There will be a big roll of paper just outside or inside the door to the bathroom.   So estimate wisely.  Or do what I do, and ALWAYS carry toilet paper in your purse.

Another thing to always carry with you is hand sanitizer.  Even the “nice” bathrooms sometimes don’t have soap.

Now if you are out shopping at a local outdoor market (which are super fun and I highly recommend) you will encounter a completely different bathroom.  You have to pay for these bathrooms.  It’s usually 3-5 pesos.  That is per person, even children.  Make sure you have exact change.  They hand you the toilet paper.  So essentially, you’re rationed (again, ALWAYS carry TP with you).  The toilets don’t have a toilet seat.  I like to carry disinfectant wipes in a Ziploc baggie with me for that reason.  And they usually don’t have soap.

If you’re traveling on the freeways, several of the gas stations have bathrooms.  But you have to pay for them.  Sometimes you put your money into a machine and walk through the revolving door.  Be quick going through the door.  If you’re not ready or quick enough, it will lock and you’ll have to pay again.

Mexican bathrooms smell bad.  Just prepare yourself.  Between the used TP in the waste basket, the poor plumbing that allows sewer gases to come up the pipes, and the strong air fresheners used to cover up the not so nice smells, it can be a little overpowering.

Notes about other country’s bathrooms:

SWITZERLAND: They are generally clean and well stocked, but they are hard to find.  There are not very many public restrooms in Switzerland.  The gas stations don’t have them.  Stores don’t have them.  Restaurants have restrooms but only for their patrons.  I found myself drinking a lot less water so I wouldn’t have to find a restroom as often.  The bathroom sign for men will read Her and the women’s will be Frau.

ITALY: The bathrooms are small and hard to find. Most of the major tourist areas have one hiding somewhere. Ask around. These are usually free, but occasionally cost a few coins. In one museum, there were two closets with a toilet each used by both men and women and then the sink was in the hallway.  In Verona, it was in the tourist parking garage and cost. Most sit-down restaurants will have one for customers, take advantage. The bathroom sign for men will read Uomini and the women’s will be Donne.

IRELAND: The bathroom situation is fairly similar to the US. On the street, you will find some pay toilet cubicles. They are clean and have paper. You might just want to use one for the experience. Everything is automatic and the seat retracts into the wall and comes back out clean. All the tourist sites have facilities.

So to sum up:

*ALWAYS CARRY TOILET PAPER WITH YOU

*ALWAYS CARRY HAND SANITIZER WITH YOU

*CARRY DISINFECTANT WIPES WITH YOU

*ALWAYS HAVE MONEY (COINS) WITH YOU TO PAY FOR THE BATHROOM

*THEY CAN BE HARD TO FIND SO DON’T WAIT AND USE IT BEFORE LEAVING AN ESTABLISHMENT YOU PATRONIZE

Feel free to comment about your international bathroom experiences, but please don’t be too graphic.  Haha.

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Travel In Sanity Adds A New Feature

 

The CDC reports that there are 6.4 million children in the US with ADHD. If you are raising one of them, you know that travel can be a real challenge. Nothing says family fun like yelling at your kid every 30 seconds to stop touching, running, climbing, screaming, etc. I feel your pain, but I haven’t let it stop me from expanding my son’s world through travel. To help you in trip planning all reviews written by Rae will now include two ADHD ratings; one for how well the attraction/activity is for hyperactive little bodies and one for interest level.

 

The H-rating (for hyperactivity) will be as follows:

Good – this venue is great for kids to run, touch and play

Medium – this venue is appropriate for the wiggles with some exceptions or with the need to be considerate of other people

Bad – Quiet, walking and no touching are expected

 

The Interest rating will be more subjective based on how my son reacted to the activity/attraction. The ratings are as follows:

No Interest – the kids didn’t get into it at all

Partial Interest – the kids had a short span of interest before getting wiggly and wandering off

Engrossed – the kids were really into it

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Acqua Della Vita

 

Vatican City, the tiniest country in the world, its territory measured in acres. And at the center of it all St. Peter’s Square, heart of the Catholic world, desire of pilgrims, a truly holy place, or another place for me to commit horrifying social gaffes. It all started innocently enough. I wanted a drink of water.

Rome really is a thirsty place, with the crammed subways, cobblestones and hills, throats get parched. Fortunately, Romans solved this problem centuries ago. The city is littered with fountains from grand public displays taking up city blocks to pocket-sized affairs tucked into a hidden corner, and every one of them has free potable water. (Tip of the day: save 2 euro on bottled water and just drink from the fountains.) Any thirsty person can dip their hand in and quench their thirst, often with a side of museum quality sculpture.

My husband, Tim, and I had just walked through the marble colonnades into this grand outdoor temple, the palatial grandeur of St. Peter’s Basilica rising before our eyes. The mid-day sun had driven off the coolness of the March morning and I saw it, a simple bowl with water dripping into it. I strode forward with purpose and was about to dip my hand into the refreshing liquid when Tim lunged at me. He could not utter an intelligible word and simple yelled “Nananana” as horror gripped his face and he grabbed my hand. “Don’t drink the Holy Water.”

We then proceeded to argue as we toured the Basilica whether holy water came out of a fountain or not. Apparently, it does. As we rounded a corner a long trough fountain was surrounded by pilgrims filling up vials of holy water as a keepsake. My bad. Sorry.

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Disney Tips #4 – Disney with the little ones

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As an Orlando resident, I’ve had Disney annual passes with babies, toddlers, preschoolers and early school age kids. Here is my take.

If you have toddlers and you want to take a Disney vacation you will get the best value for your money if you take it out of the bank in small bills, go to the back yard and have a cool bonfire. It will save you a lot of hassle and the kids will enjoy it. Still determined to get that picture with Mickey, here are some tips to ease the way.

Stroller rental is available

But your stroller is probably better.  Strollers are great for carting around kids and bags. But still limit the stuff you bring in the bag.  Less brought in means less that can get stolen. Always keep the valuables on your person (wallet, phone, keys). Strollers are also a great place for itty bitties to take a nap. (see next tip).

Pace Yourself

I know you spent as much as a mortgage payment to get your clan into the park and want to get your money’s worth, but little kids tire easily. It is just not fun when they melt down and it happens all the time in the parks. This is the reason I am a total fan of the annual pass. We just leave when we get cranky and our feet hurt.

Let them play

Rides are cool and all, but little bodies get tired of standing in line and need to move, so find a playground. At Magic Kingdom there is the waiting area for the Dumbo ride, a playhouse by Frontierland train station for the itty bitty set and Tom Sawyer island is great for running around. Epcot usually has a playground during festivals between Future World and Canada. My boy’s hands down favorite is The Boneyard in Animal Kingdom.

ID your kids

I bought vital ID bracelets that have the children’s names, allergies and my cell number on them. If they are lost someone can immediately contact me.

Sunscreen

I know, again with the sunscreen. Little ones burn fast, reapply every 90 minutes. Hats are futile, but go through the motions anyway.

Don’t overheat

Florida weather is oppressive. Take cool down breaks to avoid heat stroke. Hydrate the kiddos with water, not soda. Dumbo is great because you get a pager and are sent into an indoor playground (with benches for the parents, GENIUS) to wait your turn. Other great cool down spots are the caves on Tom Sawyer island, Small World, Frozen ride at Epcot, many of the character meet and greet areas, inside shows.

Use the Babycare Center

Not only is it air conditioned, but it has calm, quiet spots to feed the baby. In a pinch you can buy essentials at a price.

Be Aware of Ride Restrictions

It is a bummer to get to a ride and find out that your child can’t ride. Also, there are age restrictions regarding riding without an adult next to you. This causes problems when I am alone with the boys and need to ride with the preschooler, but the kindergartner can’t ride alone yet.

Assume Everything Wet Has A Gator In It

Don’t freak out. Millions of people live and visit Florida and problems are rare. Gators are opportunity hunters so they hang out and wait for something good to get close to the water or come in. Adults are too big, but small children are the size of their natural prey. My children are not allowed near natural water unless I am holding their hand and we don’t go in. Sadly, in June of 2016 a two-year old was wading with his father near the Grand Floridian Resort when a gator attacked. Tragically the boy did not make it and his father was injured. Again, don’t freak out. This is super-rare. Just be cautious and heed warning signs.

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Disney Tips #3 – Taking the Grandparents

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It is the coolest thing to be at Disney and share the experience with the whole family, from the wee little ones to the oldest and wisest in the family. Here are some ideas to help make it a great day for everyone.

  1.   Bring or Rent a wheelchair They have both electric and non-electric wheelchairs. Even if Grandma and Grandpa are in pretty good health and can walk around, it’s a big park and a long day. They can walk when they feel like it and rest when they need to.  And you can make them hold your stuff so you’re not carrying it.  Or you can hang the bags on the chair. We opted for the electric wheelchairs because they didn’t want anyone to have to push them.
  2.    A cane/chair is a great idea Ok, I’m not elderly and even I wish I had one with me. A cane that can unfold into a little stool would have been great while standing in line. There are not a lot of places to sit down when you’re standing in line.
  3.    Access to rides We had 6 people in our group, four elderly, two of whom were using rented electric wheelchairs, and 2 “younger” people in their 40’s. When we got in line for the rides, the staff would just waved all of us to the front of the line. That’s a nice perk.  I’m not sure if that is the official policy of Disney, but it sure made it easier on the elderly in our group.
  4.    Keep the elderly hydrated This can go for the little ones, too.  The young and the elderly are particularly susceptible to dehydration.   Florida, or California, are hot.  Standing around and walking around in the heat can affect them even faster.  No one wants to make a trip to the first aid station, or even worse, the hospital.  Soda doesn’t count as an acceptable liquid to stave off dehydration.  No matter how adamant grandpa is about drinking Coke all day, limit him to just one and the rest of the drinks should be water or juice (this is a conversation we have daily at my house).
  5.     Don’t forget their medications This includes the ones taken regularly and the ones taken as needed.  If they take meds for headaches, dizziness, heartburn, stomach upset, etc.; bring it.  We want them to enjoy their day with the family in the park and not be miserable.
  6.    Be Patient. You will probably be going through the park a little slower.  Mentally prepare yourself so you’re not complaining all day about how it takes all day to get anywhere. Plan an extra day so you don’t miss anything and you’re not making grandma feel bad for slowing you down.
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DisneyTips #2 Making the Most of Your Time at Disney

Tower of Terror at Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando
Hollywood Studios in Orlando

 

Planning, planning, planning. You bought the ticket and now you want to see and do everything possible.  You don’t want to waste a minute of that precious (expensive) time.  Here’s what you do:

  • Buy your tickets online before you get to the park. You won’t necessarily get any special deals online, but there are benefits to buying your tickets ahead. Pickup your ticket at the window. The line to enter the park is faster and you can book Fast Passes as soon as you buy your ticket.  See the next tip.
  • Book your Fast Passes the day before. Planning is the key.  When you book a Fast Pass, you book a window of time to go to the ride.  At the ride, go to the Fast Pass line, which is much, much shorter, and you’re enjoying the ride within 20-30 minutes. You can book months in advance. Fast Passes for the popular rides are limited and if there aren’t any left for that day, then you are out of luck and will have to wait in line with all the other people who didn’t plan ahead.  There are rules for Fast Passes.  They change from park to park and year to year, so check the Disney website.  When we went, we could each have 3 Fast Passes at one time with the thrill rides being limited to 1.  After we used the passes we could book more.  Fast Passes are linked to each person’s ticket.  The ticket you are given is similar to a credit card. DON’T LOSE THAT TICKET.  You just put that up to the scanner at the ride to use your Fast Pass
  • Donwload the Disney Experience App. This app is AWESOME!!!! You can see the time of your Fast Passes, book more Fast Passes, see the schedule of all the activities for the park you are in, create a schedule of shows that you want to see and it will remind you of what is next, it has a map of each park and your gps will show you where you want to go.  You can look at the map based on places to eat, entertainment (aka shows), rides, shopping, Mother Stations and First Aid, Info booths , and bathrooms.  One of the best features is that is showed the wait times for each ride!  Saved us a ton of time.  We didn’t even bother to go to a ride that had a long wait time.  I’d watch the wait times and when it was shorter for the ride we wanted, we ran on over to it.  Basically you can see everything in the park that you may need.  I was having a little trouble booking a Fast Pass so I went to the Info booth and they showed me how to book it and showed me other features of the app.  It took 10 mins and saved me tons of time later.
  • Get there when the park opens. You are paying a lot of money for that ticket and want as much time as possible in the park.  Get there right when the gate opens.  It’s not as crowded, it’s a little cooler, and you’ll have more time in the park.  First thing through the gate, go to the ride that gets the busiest the fastest.  You can avoid the 2 hour wait by getting there when the ride opens.  Then use your Fast Passes for the other busy rides a little bit later.  You’ll spend more time riding and less time waiting.
  • Eat during the off peak hours. Try not to eat lunch right at 12 or 1 when everyone else wants to eat.  You’ll wait in line for food almost as long as you wait for a ride.
  • Go on a ride at the very end of the day or during the fireworks. If you’ve already seen the fireworks and don’t care to see them, it’s a great time to ride a ride that was too busy during the day.  Everyone is at the show so you’ll probably be able to get on the ride pretty quickly. Or if you want to see the fireworks, hit the ride about an hour before the show.  The ride will still be less crowded.  And if you’re not sure if you’ll have time for the ride before the show, check the app.  Then you can decide.  The app knows all. Refer to the all-knowing app.
  • Pass on the Parkhopper – The parks at Disney World (Florida) are so far apart you will waste too much time getting between them.  You have to take a shuttle or monorail. Just pick one park per day and enjoy it thoroughly.  At Disney Land in California it takes 10 mins to walk form one park to the other.  If you are going to be there more than 2 days then a Parkhopper Pass makes sense.  Spend a whole day in each park and the third day going back to things you missed or things you want to do again.
  • Don’t plan to run out to the car – At Magic Kingdom at Disney World the park is a full mile from the parking lot with a lake standing between you and your car. The first time we went, we left our lunch in the car not realizing we needed to take a monorail or a boat to get back. It is a good 30 minutes each way between car door and park door. The other parking lots at Disney World are right next to the park and more walkable. But if you are parked at the edge of the lot it will still take you a good 20 mins to get to your car.

Coming up next: Disney tips for the elderly

 

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OraLynn and Luis at Epcot during the International Flower Festival
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Disney Tips #1 – Comfort

20170311_204255Disney, the happiest place on earth! A favorite of children and adults alike, until you encounter the heat, the crowds, the costs, the lines, etc.  There goes the dream vacation.  Nope, nope, nope.  I won’t let that happen to you.  Here is the first in our series of tips for surviving a day (or more) at the Disney parks.

Let’s start with staying comfortable

  • If at all possible, don’t carry a bag or purse with you. – obviously, I’m not talking to parents of babies. We spent 2 days and went to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  The first day I carried my little, cross body purse.  It had very little in it – phone, credit cards, money, Chapstick.  By the end of the day I felt like I was carrying a bag of textbooks for 20 classes.  It was also a pain to stow during the rides.  The second day I put my cards and ID and phone in my pockets and went on my merry way.  So Much Better!  And here’s another perk of not carrying a bag –there’s a security line for people who are not carrying bags.  It’s shorter and faster to get through. If you can do without it, leave the purse in the hotel.
  •  Wear super comfy shoes! OK, this is another lifesaving tip. You are going to be on your feet for about 12 hours if you get there when the park opens and stay until it closes.  I know those super cute wedges are screaming at you to be worn with your cute outfit.  They are a match made in fashion heaven.  But don’t do it. Resist the urge to be fashionable.  Your feet will be dying by the middle of the day.  Sure, there are places to sit down and rest.  But that’s not what you are at Disney for.  You are there to see everything and do everything you can.  My husband wore his running shoes and I wore my Tevas.  I hate shoes, but flip flops don’t have any support and they could fall off during some rides.  So Tevas it was and they worked great.  I was still tired at the end of the day, but I wasn’t dying.
  • Don’t carry purchases around with you all day. What!? Go to Disney and not buy any souvenirs. Blasphemy.  I didn’t say don’t buy anything, I said don’t carry it with you all day.  You can have purchases sent to your hotel if you are staying at a Disney property.  You can also have them held for you at the entrance so you can pick them up as you leave the park at the end of the day.  And here’s a thought, don’t buy them in the park.  Way over-priced and you can get Disney stuff cheaper at the outlets (they have them in Orlando) or online.  Get your Disney t-shirts before your vacation and wear them in the park.
  • ***WEAR SUNSCREEN! ***I cannot stress this enough. Nobody wants a ruined vacation because they got a sunburn. If you aren’t used to the sun and you get a really bad burn, it will make you sick and you don’t want to spend a day or two in a boring hotel room recovering. If you think “but I’m on vacation.  I want to get a tan”, still put on sunscreen.  I promise you will tan.  You’ll be out in the sun for about 10 hours.  Even if you reapply the sunscreen, you’ll still get a tan.  I wore 70 spf and I got a tan. Note: I get migraines if I get too much sun so sunglasses are essential and a hat is helpful. People don’t realize that your eyes can get a “sunburn”, too. Protect those beautiful baby blues (or greens or browns).

Rae the Floridian here, our sun is no joke. It gets two bullet points. The day we bought our annual passes I went to the Columbia store and bought a long sleeve hiking shirt with SPF protection, just to wear to Disney. I also try to wear shorts made from light weight athletic fabric. It is really sticky here and they breathe better when you are sweating buckets. I subscribe to the no bag policy, so I buy little containers of sunscreen that I can put in a pocket or one with a clip so I can hook it on a belt loop. Reapply often. You can always tell a Brit at Disney because they are wearing tank tops and are lobster red. Along the same lines, wear a hat or sunglasses.

Coming up next: How to make the most of your time at Disney.

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Travel In Sanity Intro

Hey everyone.  OraLynn here.  My sister and I finally started our travel blog.  I’m still figuring this blog thing out.  I posted our first blog 2 weeks ago but I don’t think it showed up in social media.  So I’m posting this.  When you see my posts on FB please like them and share them and follow our blog.  We promise to make it interesting and fun and inspiring. 20161015_100732  Here’s a teaser pic.  It’s Acapulco. I’ll post about that trip a little later.  😉

 

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First blog post for Travel In Sanity

This is our first post on our new travel blog Travel In Sanity.  Please share and follow our blog.

Hey there world travelers or wannabe travelers.  Rae and I (OraLynn) started a travel blog.  Between the two of us we’ve been to Switzerland, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, Costa Rica, Ireland, Canada, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, and 49 of the 50 states in America. We LOVE to travel.  Getting outside our own little bubble and learning about other cultures (even within your own country) is an important step toward appreciating our differences and similarities.  And gosh is it fun.

The main reason we started this blog is to promote family travel.  We’ve traveled with little kids, teens, couples, and the elderly. Our dad was in the US Air Force so we moved around when we were growing up.  Our family didn’t have a lot of money, but we always took a family vacation.  My parents took us to whatever historical, fun or interesting vacation spot that was within driving distance.  Some of my fondest memories were of our family vacations.  There’s nothing like a vacation to strengthening family bonds.  Even the rough, well that didn’t go as planned, vacation provides cherished memories to look back on.  Don’t let having small children, brooding moody teenagers, or not so agile older folks deter you from spending time with your family exploring the world.

What you can expect from this blog:

  • tips on inexpensive travel
  • ideas to preserve your sanity when traveling with small children
  • reviews of places to eat
  • appropriate adventures for each age
  • out of the way, not so touristy things to do
  • touristy things to do (come on, you can’t go to London without seeing Buckingham Palace)
  • international travel tips
  • pictures and videos
  • cultural and historical experiences
  • high adventures
  • a bazillion other things that I can’t think of right now

What you won’t see on this blog:

  • reviews of bars or places to get your drink on ( we travel with our kids and we don’t drink so look for that info on other blogs)
  • reviews of the best party spots (see above comment on bars)

So please join us as we attempt to inspire you to travel with your family.