Category Archives: Travel

A new race on the calendar!

As many of you know, registration for the 2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World opened up to the general public last week. I’ve wanted to repeat this race since I first participated in 2013, but I haven’t had the opportunity. All the stars have aligned, and I will be going back in 2017!

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What’s really fun is, once I put it out there on the Internet that I’m registered, I learned that a lot of people I know are running. AND I recruited a friend to come and make it her very first half marathon! AND she is inviting everyone she knows to come along, too. If I’m honest, so am I. “Come! Run with me!” “Come! Be my cheerleader!” I’m pretty excited. I just can’t seem to help myself.

Once the kids are back to school (in less than a month?!), I’ll have to get serious about running again. We haven’t broken up completely, but I haven’t trained for any kind of long distance since January. Of last year. I’ve lifted weights and done a lot of other things, but I haven’t run farther than three or four miles in quite some time. It will definitely be a challenge with the hills and altitude that I have to contend with now.

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I snapped this photo one morning while walking Hank. It’s a little tricky to tell, but our neighborhood is nestled right up next to the mountains. There’s a running/biking path…at the bottom of the hill. No matter what I do, the last mile back to my house? Straight up. I may need to leave the neighborhood to find a path that won’t try to kill me.

Regardless, this is happening. I’ll have another one of these beauties to add to my collection come February! Now, to figure out my costume….

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People I Meet Traveling – The Chatterbox

This story is only a few weeks old. I haven’t told it here yet. The only other thing I have to write about this week is sad. I’ll probably get to it soon, but for now…enjoy.

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I was on the 6:25am flight from San Antonio to Minneapolis. I’d been up since 3:20am, my brain too fidgety to let me sleep any longer. The kids and I waited in line after line and were finally on the airplane. When I purchased our tickets, the only way to have seats near one another was to put Aidan & Neely in the row in front of me. I had the window seat. It wasn’t the most ideal scenario, but I figured we’d make it work.

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I waited to see who claimed the seat across the aisle from them, intending to ask to trade. When a large, tall man sat down, I knew it was pointless even to ask. He wouldn’t want my window seat. I settled in for the ride.

A short while later, my seat buddy showed up. He was a little guy, nine years old, whose mother has apparently never taught him “stranger danger.” (Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe he just didn’t listen.) First, he told me about the tablet he got for Christmas, and had I ever seen the one that says “R-C-A?” Second, he told me, as I stared in horror, about how he sometimes gets sick on airplanes and this one time when he was four he barfed ALL OVER THE FLOOR but it’s ok because he took Dramamine today, and by the way do I know about the Skylander called Cynder?

Gulp.

I like kids. I do. But if I’ve got to deal with a kid getting sick on an airplane, that little puker had better belong to me.

I did a mental checklist of what I had packed in my carry-on. Extra clothes? Nope. I figured I might be purchasing whatever the heck I could find in the Minneapolis airport, and it would probably have a moose on it. Or a Viking.

Grandma and big sister were on the other side of the aisle. If you know you’ve got a kid that might blow mid-flight, do you sit with him? Or put him by a stranger? I seriously could not understand what was happening. I tried for the whole flight to make eye contact with Grandma. Do you know when she met my eye for the first time? When the damn airplane landed. After I’d had my ear talked off for two hours. Thankfully, nobody vomited.

I did manage about a 30-minute nap somewhere in there, grabbing my pillow and screwing my eyes shut the one time the little guy turned his attention from me, but the moment I stirred, he picked up right where he left off. I learned so much. He’s from Pennsylvania. He’s a big brother AND a little brother. His dad lives in Texas. His little brother lives in Texas. His sister is two years older than him. He loves Skylanders. Some of them live in his room, and he’s trained them to be nice. Sometimes, the new ones aren’t nice, and it’s scary. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could build ladders into the clouds? Then, you could probably find a really nice, comfy spot to sit and read in the clouds. Wouldn’t that be nice? He bets clouds are really soft, and maybe bouncy. He really likes the window seat, but it wouldn’t be a good idea to trade with me, because he needs to stay by his family. It’s safer that way. He really likes the tablet he got for Christmas. It has a lot of apps. Do I want to see? Do I have a lot of apps on my tablet? Why don’t I have games? Are those your kids? How old are your kids? What grade are they in? Where do you live? Do you know where (random town in Pennsylvania) is? There’s a new MOD on Minecraft. Want to guess what it has? They have big ears and can jump really high. Can you guess? Do you like Minecraft?

By the time the Minecraft conversation started, we’d finally landed. Of course, Aidan began to chime in, and I realized I should have traded seats with my own son. I’m an idiot.

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My Favorite runDisney Costumes…for now

This week, Disney runners are packing up their tutus and donning their mouse ears, gearing up for 2016’s Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I am more than a little jealous. One day, I will be closer. One day, I will run all the races. Today…well, today is not that day.

Until then, let’s take a look at some of my (latest) favorite costumes from past runDisney events! As a warning, you won’t find any princesses here. There’s an entire race in February just for them.

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Let’s begin with Cinderella’s stepsisters – Anastasia and Drizella. This has long been a favorite of mine, but I’ve never had a runDisney buddy to try it with.

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Of course, I have to include Cruella de Vil. You’ve seen her here before, and you’ll probably see her again. I tried to recreate this one myself, but I didn’t look near as awesome as Kelly does.

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Russell & Kevin from Up! Again, I’d need a buddy. I’d also need that buddy to let me be Kevin.

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This BB-8 costume is outstanding. This gal was at a different Disney event, but I saw something very similar at the Star Wars 10K last January while waiting to begin. HER ARMS ARE INSIDE. I prayed that poor girl wouldn’t trip.

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Are there any Inside Out fans among us? This is a great idea for a large group.

This last one is my very favorite…

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The Disneyland Churro! Click over and read the post. That costume is SCENTED! I’ll bet there were a lot of runners craving churros that day.

No matter what race you’re running this weekend, good luck to you, costumed wonders!

 

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Sandals – The Countdown is ON

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In just 10 days, I’ll be on my way to this gorgeous Sandals resort in Jamaica. Why? So I can learn all about Sandals’ fabulous couples vacations, come home, and pass the knowledge on to you!

My primary focus as a travel agent so far as been all Disney, all the time. Disney will likely remain my primary focus, but I’m excited to have Sandals in my back pocket for when my clients are in search of a more relaxing vacation.

I mean, look at this place. Show of hands – who wants to go right now?

Enjoy those pics. I should have some of my own to share soon enough.

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The time I took my kids to Disneyland.

We’ve been home from California for over two weeks, and I haven’t blogged about it yet. It’s shocking, I know. Or maybe it isn’t, considering what a lazy blogger I’ve been lately. There are reasons, which I may getting around to sharing eventually, but they don’t belong in this post.

Disneyland! The happiest place on earth is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year – the Diamond Celebration. This had no real bearing on my deciding to take the trip, but it sure was a wonderful added bonus. When I visited Disneyland back in January, every third thought in my head was how I wished my kids could see this, or that, or that really cool thing over there! As the end of the school year began to get closer, I decided to go for it. I found a pretty good price on airfare, a great travel agent rate for the room, and we used the discounted passes we’re able to purchase. This was a solo-parent adventure. I probably would not have attempted Disney World in Florida without a second adult. Even as many times as I’ve been, I think that would be overwhelming. But in California, everything is so close together. I knew if anyone began to melt down, we could be back in our hotel room within 20 minutes.

We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. Within minutes of entering the lobby, we found Goofy wandering around. Our room was lovely, and I was super excited that our “pool view room” also had a view of Downtown Disney and the parks (way off in the distance). The kids got very excited about all the Disney touches in the room – Mickey’s hands holding the lights in the bathroom, the stars and hidden Mickeys in the carpet, and of course, the light-up castle above the beds.

We spent our first day at Disneyland Park. We got off to a rocky start, choosing to ride Pinocchio’s Daring Journey first after discovering that Peter Pan was still closed for refurbishment. I hadn’t ridden it recently enough to remember that it’s kind of dark and scary. Neely decided she was terrified of this and most everything that *might* go through the dark…which is everything. She also refuses to ride anything goes fast, so this rules out a lot. We still had plenty to do, but it was frustrating not being able to take my boy on things he wanted to ride. Neely decided that she wanted to collect autographs on this trip, so that was a fun change. Another inexpensive souvenir we decided to collect are souvenir pennies. We brought along a roll of quarters and a roll of pennies, and the kids’ job was to be on the lookout for penny machines each day. They loved this! I loved it, since many of the gift shops have the penny machines inside. The kids were so focused on getting their penny, they didn’t beg for everything else they saw.

We also watched the new Paint the Night parade on this day. People start camping out and staking their spot FOUR HOURS EARLY. I could hardly believe it. We found our spot closer to half an hour early. It wasn’t the best. It was standing-room only, but it could have been a lot worse, too. Most of the folks around us were pretty understanding and let the little ones squeeze up closer to the front, so they could see.

Day Two – California Adventure. We managed to coerce Neely onto the Radiator Springs Racers and Soarin’ Over California. I may have lied once (we’ll have them put us in the “slow car”), and I had to promise extra rides on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree to convince her to cooperate. And no, she’s not the type to get off a ride and decide she was wrong about it. She definitely stuck to her guns. If she was going to hate it, she hated it. We had a fun day, anyway. Both kids ate their very first churro. They even asked if they could have one for breakfast the next day. Ha!

Also, the World of Color show…incredible. We had a World of Color dinner package at Wine Country Trattoria. The dinner was delicious, although I wish I’d asked for a patio seat. We were there at 5:00pm, just when the Pixar Play Parade was passing by. If we’d been seated outside, we could have had an awesome view from the restaurant. With dinner, we received tickets to a reserved viewing area for that night’s World of Color show. It was completely worth it to me not to have to stake out a spot super early. We walked right in to the perfect spot to watch. The lights, the water, the color…I loved it all.

The last day was spent mostly back at Disneyland, but we did hop over to California Adventure for a bit, too. I love that you can walk out of one park and into the other within minutes. I also rented a cabana by the pool for our last afternoon…

It’s quite possibly one of the best decisions I ever made. If you’re at a Disneyland resort in June, don’t expect to find a chair anywhere close to the pool, or in the shade, by mid-afternoon. I’m so glad we had this waiting for us. The cabana has a sofa and loveseat inside, along with a TV, mini-fridge, ceiling fan, and safe. There are two lounge chairs at the front with an umbrella as well. At the Disneyland Hotel, the Tangaroa Terrace restaurant services the pool. We had our own attendant and were able to order drinks and food without leaving the comfort of our cabana. For a Mama who has been hauling little ones around on her own for three days, this was heavenly.

All in all, we had a great time. We never really saw the special fireworks show for the Diamond Celebration. They were canceled a couple of our nights because of high winds. There were fireworks on the night we watched World of Color. We saw some of them as we walked back to the hotel afterward. The kids were satisfied seeing them that way, so I don’t feel like missing them was a huge deal. I’ve got my Disney fix for a little while, but I definitely think we need Dad along to help next time. 🙂

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Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Recap

It’s kind of fun to be involved in the “inaugural” anything, but the very first Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend was super cool. There were a lot of firsts for me this weekend. It was the first time I’ve been to Disneyland since I was a kid, so there were a lot of Disneyland-related firsts. (I’ll share my general Disneyland experience later.) This was also the first time I’ve participated in one of runDisney’s challenges. I’ve been watching Internet friends run a gazillion miles back-to-back for a few years. I guess I got a wild hair and thought I’d see if I could survive that kind of torture, too.

First up – my first Disney 10K! I’m honestly surprised I finished as quickly as I did. I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday, picked up my race packet, hung out at the pool, and enjoyed dinner at Steakhouse 55 before an early bedtime. I hadn’t been in either of the parks yet. My head was on a swivel the entire time, trying to see as much as I could as I passed through. That pic in front of the ferris wheel? First time I’ve ever seen it! California Adventure didn’t exist the last time I was at Disneyland.

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I am extremely happy with my results. I tried to be conscious of the fact that I’d be running the half marathon the next day, so I wouldn’t completely burn myself out. I think I managed that fairly well.

On the way back to the hotel, I happened upon a familiar face…

…and then this happened. #rundisney #rebelchallenge #gooniesneversaydie

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I saw others stopping for a pic with him, and I very nearly passed on by, not to be a nuisance. I changed my mind at the last minute, though. I knew nobody would believe me otherwise, least of all my husband. 😉 Thanks for stopping and helping me take this selfie, Sean Astin. You’re the best!

The next morning, we were out of bed early to run the half marathon. (But not nearly as early as I have been for races at WDW. Staying on property and walking 10 minutes to the start line was the best decision we could have made!) I wasn’t nervous per se, but I had very low expectations for my finish time. I usually give myself a couple of rest days before a long run. My legs felt good post-10K, but I wasn’t sure how things would go down. I should have practiced running back-to-back. I intended to. I never did it, because training over the holidays? It just didn’t happen.

The course was really different than any other Disney race I’ve run. Shortly after mile 4, we were completely finished running through the parks. The rest of the race took us through the streets of Anaheim. I don’t have a problem with this personally. There were people along the entire course cheering us on – local marching bands, cheerleading squads, people who wanted an excuse to dress up in Star Wars costumes, etc. People amp me up, so this totally works for me. For those who are used to running Disney World and want Disney in their face the entire time? Disappointment city.

At the 10K mark, I noticed I was running considerably slower than I had the day before. It took my legs a lot longer than usual to warm up. I put a lot of effort into those first 5 miles or so. I managed to pull out a PR by the end somehow. I beat my best time (that half in September that I didn’t train for) by a full minute!

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I only stopped once, for a photo with a couple of storm troopers. Most of the character lines were crazy long. I skipped over them. I wanted to get done, so I could go play at Disneyland! I did stop my Garmin while I waited and took this photo, though. My actual run time according to the watch was closer to 2:18. When I finished my first half marathon in 2:37 almost four years ago, I never could have imagined that would be anywhere in the realm of possibility.

All in all, this was another good runDisney weekend for me. It redeemed my Wine & Dine Half Marathon experience completely. The only thing that I wish was different are the Coast to Coast Challenge rules. To earn a Coast to Coast medal, you have to run a Disney race on each coast in the same calendar year. There were only two months between the two half marathons I participated in, but since they were in 2014 and 2015, no Coast to Coast medal for me. 😦 The only race left that I could run in Florida in 2015 is Wine & Dine, and the memories are a little too fresh for me to want to go back for that one again so soon.

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Visit to South Dakota – Part 2

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On to the next part of our South Dakota adventure! I can’t even remember what Plan A was on the day I took the kids to visit the Badlands, but I’m glad we went with Plan B instead. The Badlands National Park entrance is about an hour drive from where we stayed. I loaded the car with kids, games, and snacks, and we headed out early(ish). I didn’t even tell them where we were going.

Coming in to the Badlands from the west, you drive through a lot of grasslands. Even by the time you reach the entrance, you still really don’t see any of the rock formations that come to mind when you think of the Badlands. We pulled off the road, took a picture with the sign (thank you, brave mama touring the midwest alone with your kids), and as we entered the park, I confiscated the video games….to much groaning and protesting.

For a little bit, we continued to see grasslands out the window. I got an earful about how boring this was going to be. Then, we turned a corner and….voila!

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I am no longer a liar and complete failure as a mother. My rock-obsessed boy thought this was the coolest place he’d ever seen. Neely didn’t hate it, either.

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We spent nearly 4 hours driving around and exploring Badlands National Park. These guys wanted to stop at almost every lookout. I even let them have their gadgets back, because they wanted to take their own pictures!

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Can you blame them? It really is a beautiful part of the country.

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At one point, toward the end of our trek, we ran across a “fossil trail.” It’s basically a walkway, where they’ve set up some fossils that have been found in the area with plaques and info for you to read. There are also some good spots for little climbers to enjoy.

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I am so proud of my little adventurers. We went to the Badlands because it was something I really wanted to see for myself. I wasn’t sure what the kids were going to think, but they surprised me. We had a great time!

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Disney Princess Half Marathon 2015…it’s coming!

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Disney’s Princess Half Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart, since it was the first (and so far only!) runDisney event I participated in. A lot of races I’ve run feel competitive and intimidating to me, but not this one. This one feels warm and fuzzy and girly and pink and just super FUN! Not to mention, I’m a big fan of a race where you can wear a sparkly costume and not get funny looks from the other runners.

The date for the 2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend is February 19-22, 2015. This year, you can sign up for the Disney Princess 5K, the Disney Enchanted 10K, or the Disney Princess Half Marathon. You can also register to run the Glass Slipper Challenge, which includes Saturday’s 10K and Sunday’s half marathon.

When is registration for this magical event? It’s coming soon! Registration opens on July 15th at noon EST. You’ll want to be at your computer ready to register on runDisney’s website if you’d like to participate. These events sold out super fast last summer!

Watch the blog for a fun giveaway in conjunction with registration day. You can also find me on Facebook as Audra Disney-Travel Planner Owens for updates on what I’m giving away and how to enter! 🙂

 

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Visit to South Dakota – Part 1

We’re back home! Instead of unpacking and washing our clothes, I’m playing with pictures. Yes, it makes perfect sense.

These photos are from the first few days of our trip. The last few days’ worth are still chilling in the camera. I’ll get to them. Don’t you worry.

This first round is from the Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota. A few of these are repeats from the other day, but a few are new.

We also made the obligatory visit to Mount Rushmore. John is the only one of us who had ever been. Surprisingly, Neely thought it was cool, and Aidan was unimpressed. Go figure. It started raining on us as soon as we got there, so my pictures aren’t wonderful. They’re mainly evidence that we went.

On another rainy day, we visited Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. It’s about an hour’s drive east of Rapid City. The day we went, that’s all we did. We just needed something indoors and dry to do. We spent a lot of time wondering how exactly this place ended up in such a “random” location. It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized how close it is to the Badlands National Park, and it’s really the only place to stop and eat or use the restroom on your way to/from the park.

The kids’ favorite part was “mining” for gems in their little sluice box. If you have a kid who likes rocks, this part of the country will be equally wonderful/miserable for you. Aidan wanted to buy rocks EVERYWHERE. Actually, both kids begged to buy rocks everywhere. Don’t they know those are free off the ground outside? 😉

Another crowd favorite were the Reptile Gardens. I earned “Coolest Mom Ever” in their eyes by bringing them here. I may have gotten knocked back down a peg when I refused to let them have a pet snake ~ they loved Marilyn the Burmese python so much they decided we should have one of our own. They got stuffed snakes instead. A pet you have to feed live animals? No, thank you.

I figure that’s enough for you to mull over for now. I’ll get through the rest of the photos soon, because I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit for more. Ha!

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One from the road

I know you’re dying to know what we’re up to…if we’re not friends on Facebook and Instagram, that is. 😉

I uploaded my photos (so far) to the computer yesterday, so I’ll give you a little preview. Here are a few pictures from our visit to the Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota. Who doesn’t enjoy climbing on concrete dinosaurs built in the 1930’s?

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My kids loved Dinosaur Park. After we’d been, we realized that you can see that big brontosaurus on the hill as you drive into downtown Rapid City. I have no idea how we didn’t notice it before!

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