Travel Ornaments; A Year in Review….

People collect mementos of their travels, and one thing I collect is ornaments. Every year when we put up our tree, the ornaments from vacations past come out of the box and the trip is relived with joy, stories and laughter. It is EXACTLY why I travel and bring something home with me.

This year was a bit different. While we did still get in a couple of trips pre-COVID (Amsterdam and a girl’s trip to Punta Cana – and somehow I cannot find my ornament from that trip…), and still went to Disney and road tripped to South Carolina, we did miss out on a Disney cruise, a river cruise on the Rhine and my hubby missed a boy’s cruise to Mexico. There’s always next year!!!

Here are some memories and our ornaments…I know I will treasure them for many years to come. What do you bring home from your adventures?

Amsterdam – January 2020 – We LOVED this trip with friends – we can’t wait to go back!

Disney – August 2020

Southern Road Trip – Asheville, NC and Charleston, SC – November 2020

Disney 2020 – The Memory Maker

Every time we go to Disney, we purchase Disney’s Memory Maker (previously Photo Pass).  This Photo Package not only includes all the pictures taken around the parks (including rides) and resorts by Disney’s photographers, but also any that are taken during a character/meal encounter.  You can link all members of your traveling party (even other reservations and groups) for everyone to use and it encourages people to keep their phones put away.

For us, it has always been worth every penny!  I also encourage my clients to make this purchase – some do it, others do not and regret it.  We have made an art out of doing funny things for our Memory Maker photos.  It is part of the fun in making the memories to last a lifetime.  And on par with Disney – they even throw in a little magic!

Here are our favorite Memory Maker photos from this trip!

Char and the photographer had a bit of fun!

The concentration levels are EPIC.  I always lost!  hahaha

Some of the best pictures come off Space Mountain!  From nose picking, T-Rexing, praising Tiki (that’s the “baby” Yoda doll you see sometimes), choking out, rockin’ out and shooting out – we have it all covered!


Seriously – T-Rex arms are classic!

And then there are the classic Group Shots! These are fabulous and make some of the best memories ever – I mean, that is the whole point of the Memory Maker!!!

And then throw in a little Disney Magic!

As you can see, we love our Memory Maker!!! We take full advantage of it every trip!!! Next time you go to Disney, you should totally think about adding the Memory Maker to your trip planning!!!

Disney 2020 – The Nitty Gritty

So many people were surprised when I told them we were going through with our planned trip to Disney last week.  I kept hoping Disney would remain open so we could go!!!

People were worried about the plane ride.

People were worried that Florida is a hot bed of COVID and that we were taking necessary risks.

People were worried that others wouldn’t follow the rules.

Some people just worry.

That’s not us!  And we knew that Disney would not only be the happiest place on earth; we knew it would also be the cleanest!

During our week at Disney we saw physical distancing markers at ALL the rides and we were encouragement to follow procedures from Cast Members when we forgot (it is easy to fall back on norms and crowd the people in front of you when you are excited).


The queue at Soarin.


Physical distancing on the monorails – quick and easy!


A great example of the physical distanced queues in line for Rockin’ Roller Coaster.


The queue at Expedition Everest

At every ride entrance and exit and ALL over the parks and resorts, there were not only hand sanitizer stations, but also hand WASH stations with soap.  Along with marked physical distancing queues for rides, food pick up and purchasing merch at stores, many of the loading areas and queue areas have physical barriers to promote distancing.

Every ride is sanitized in a rotation with specially formulated spray every two-ish hours.  We were able to witness this first hand on Flight of Peter Pan.

Character encounters were different, but we loved each one!!!


Our dinner at the Garden Grill in The Land at EPCOT was one of the best meals EVER!


And we had so much fun with our “friends”!!


A carriage full of princesses at EPCOT!!!!!


I met Alice at the Great Britain pavilion.


Even the Cast Members got into the fun!


A character “experience” with Captain Jack Sparrow!


Anna and Elsa at EPCOT!

Friends, life is full of calculated risks; smoking, sunbathing/outside sports, riding a bike or motorcycle without a helmet, jay-walking, being in a car without a seat belt.  The list goes on.  We gambled on the quality of the experience we have come to count on with Disney and we were NOT disappointed!!!

Is this a time for everyone to travel?  No.  You should not travel if you feel uncomfortable traveling.  You should not travel if you are unwilling or unable to follow the rules set forth by the airlines or your destination.  For us, this trip was a no brainer and we were rewarded for our adventurous spirit!!

Disney 2020 – Follow the Rules or Stay Home

I’ve always been a rule follower.  There have been a handful of times when I have not followed the rules and the the consequences were terrible – I will continue to follow the rules!

Right now, the world is full of extra rules.  For some people, that is comforting.  For others, it makes them stir crazy.  I would fall in between.

If you are unable or unwilling to follow the rules at Disney, please stay home.  Don’t ruin this once in a lifetime experience for the rest of us because you are too selfish do to what is asked of you.

When you agree to go to Disney during this time, you agree to the rules set forth by Disney to create a safer experience.  Here is an overview of some of the rules;

 1.  Masks must be worn at all times EXCEPT when you are ACTIVELY eating or drinking AND you must be STATIONARY (you cannot walk around and eat or drink with your mask off).

We had no troubles with this at all – only once when we were seated and not ACTIVELY eating or drinking did someone say (politely) we had to keep our masks on.  It was NOT – and if you have breathing problems or asthma, for example, going to Florida at the end of August would not be the best idea.  But EVERYONE we saw was compliant – even the 2 and 4 year old cousins we were traveling with – they did AMAZING!!!!!


Everyone wore masks ALL day except when eating or drink while STATIONARY.

2.  You must maintain physical distancing. 

I love the signage and people say PHYSICAL distancing, NOT social distancing.  This was easy for everyone to understand and for the most part, people did a great job at keeping space!  We were a large part – sometimes up to 10 of us, but we stayed together and were only questioned a few times about the size of our party.  This is one great reason to wear the same shirts!!!  Everyone knew we were part of the same group!


The queue at Expedition Everest

MK 1

3.  Your temperature will be checked every day before entering the park.  If y our temperature is at or above 100.4, you and your party will be asked to go to another tent close by for monitoring and additional steps may be taken.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t TOTALLY happy ever time we passed the temperature screening every day.  Let’s face it, you can have a temperature for a million other reasons than COVID, and all those reasons will keep you AND YOUR PARTY out of the park if someone has a sustained temperature.  I think this is great – because how many people force their sick family members into the park because they “paid a lot for this trip” and will endanger everyone else with their germs!  Is this method 100% fol proof – nope.  But it sure helps!!!

At Disney, there were plenty of rules we had to follow.  I thought they were acceptable rules to not only encourage a more hygienic environment, but also the get on with life during a pandemic.  We cannot reasonably remain quarantined forever.  Life must go on and Disney is making it happen.

Disney 2020 – Animal Kingdom

Friday, our last day at Disney World, was spent at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  We stayed for over 9 hours and packed in eso much!

We arrived when the park opened and headed to Pandora Flight of Passage and walked right on.  We hit Na’avi River, then headed to Kilimanjaro Safaris.  Afterwards we did the Kalahari River Rapids 4 times, then Everest 3 times (my stomach was about to roll over).  We had lunch, did the jungle walk, then watched the “bird show”, rode Dinosaur, did the Gorilla walk, then headed back to Flight of Passage, where we walked on AGAIN!!


Here are the pictures to prove it!


It was as if we had the park to ourselves!!!!


Smith Day at Animal Kingdom!!!


This handsome fellow is “KJ” and he is the alpha male of the four bachelor group at Animal Kingdom.


Char gets her sugar fix!!!


A must-do picture every trip!


Kelton gets his turn!!!


The Tree of Life never looked so good!


Along with hand sanitizer stations everywhere, you can find simple hand washing stations with soap all over the parks.


Late afternoon – still a light crowd headed into “Africa”.


Disney 2020 – Magic Kingdom, Day 2

Our second day at Magic Kingdom was even MORE epic than the first.  We had a blast going on repeat rides (3 times in a row for Splash Mountain and 4 times for Space Mountain), walked on to Peter Pan (that never happens!) and rode everything we wanted to except Big Thunder Mountain (it was closed all day).

The crowds were even fewer than our first day at Magic Kingdom and everything was open except Big Thunder and the People Mover.  Some shops are closed, but trust me, there are plenty of places to buy Disney goodies!!!!

Here are some pictures from our day!


Headed into the park with “The Child” – whom I keep calling Baby Yoda – but Char has named him “Tiki”.


I love the thin crowds!!.


Dole Whip….So good!!!


This is the “opening” crowd!


I have never seen Cinderella Castle so empty!


A character “experience” with Captain Jack Sparrow!


Mid day – around 1pm….where are the people???



A late afternoon storm starts to clear out the park even more.


Not many people left on Main Street.


Disney 2020 – EPCOT

The older I get, the more I love EPCOT!  On Wednesday, we got to experience a day at EPCOT like no other I have ever seen or will probably ever see again!  To attend the International Food & Wine Festival with so few people was indescribable!  We had a wonderful time!  We even got to experience character encounters “COVID” style!



We have been at EPCOT during a number of their festivals; The Art Festival, The Flower and Garden Festival and now The International Food & Wine Festival.  I have to say I have found them to all be rather similar, but special experiences none-the-less.  They are worth the extra effort to attend during these events.


EPCOT is undergoing a massive overhaul.  I was surprised by how much was closed off, but other than the flow of traffic being interrupted, I didn’t find it terribly inconvenient at all.  I cannot wait to see all the magic the imagineers have in store for us at EPCOT gets a face-lift and new feel!!!  I mean – the crowds were so thin, the re-routing caused by the updates was barely noticed!


In addition to a new entrance before Spaceship Earth (and a revamped Spaceship Earth experience) and the entire courtyard after Spaceship Earth getting completely redone, we are anticipating a new Remy ride (similar to the one in Disneyland Paris – which is EPIC) and new “neighborhoods” being created in the areas around The Land, The Living Seas and over near Mission Space.  The re-imagining is extensive and will give EPCOT the edge it has been lacking for a while.


We had a wonderful time!!  We also wore some pretty spectacular shirts this day – ones we made – and they were so well received that even the ladies working at the Italy pavilion thought they were amazing and voted us having the “best shirts”.  There were cool!


EPCOT has always been one of my faves and with all the new goings on there, it is sure to be one of yours!



Disney 2020 – Magic Kingdom

Well, what can I say?  Magic Kingdom has always been my favorite park – I mean, it IS the happiest place on earth.  Today, it was EPIC!


I knew the minute the monorail arrived we were going to have the!

We hit all the major rides except Big Thunder Mountain (it was closed for cleaning when we were in that area) and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – but we are luckily going to Magic Kingdom on Thursday and those will be our top priority!

People keep asking, “What is not open?”.  Well, ALMOST everything IS open!  The only ride I have noticed that is not open so far is the People Mover in Tomorrowland.  There are not as many snack stations open and some of the smaller stores are closed, but we have not had to search for snacks, drinks or souvenirs at all!


All of the rides close on a rotating schedule for cleaning, so occasionally a ride will be shut down when you want to go on it but it isn’t closed for long.

There are sanitation stations EVERYWHERE, everyone is masked, each and every ride queue is comfortably distanced, there are fabulous pop up parades and musical performances and not having to dodge people left and right or get run over by strollers or scooters was priceless!

The truth is, this is the most perfect, magical time to be at Disney.  Never again will there be so few visitors and this is such a gift!!!  We have done Disney’s special events in the past (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and also a Disney Vacation Club Members Only event) and there are FAR FEWER people here now then there were during those events!  We are loving every steamy minute of this experience!!!


This is how I felt ALL day!!!!

Stick around because tomorrow is EPCOT!!  EPCOT is experiencing so many changes right now, but I know we can count on some great rides, short lines and the International Food and Wine Festival!!!  My dream come true!!!!



Disney 2020 – Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios – generally my least favorite Disney park as I think it has been lacking in previous years….Disney has obviously thought so as well and over the past 5ish years has added not only “Toy Story Land” but recently opened “Galaxy’s Edge”, the new Star Wars land and also right before COVID hit, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad!  These new additions have really kicked up Hollywood Studio’s attendance (even today at opening was pretty busy) and added a much needed boost to this slumping park.


This is “busy” as we first enter the park.


As the day goes on, not so busy – this is at 11am.


1:20pm and the coast is pretty clear!!!


Great crowds today at Hollywood Studios!

We arrived and parked at Hollywood Studios around 9:20am – the official opening time for the park is 10am but getting there early allowed us to get through the health screening, security check and park gates by 9:30am and head straight towards Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad.  We were cruising in the line and by 10am, we entered the virtual queue for Star Wars; Rise of the Resistance.  Our time for that ride was approximately 2pm, so we had time to not only ride Mickey and Minnie, but also Toy Story Mania, Slinky Dog Dash, Tower of Terror, Rockin’ Roller coaster, have lunch and then venture over to Smugglers Run BEFORE our numbers came up for the virtual queue.


A great example of the physical distanced queues in line for Rockin’ Roller Coaster.

The crowds were a bit heavier in the morning, but as the day went on, crowds thinned and we had a fabulous time exploring Galaxy’s Edge!  It was WAY bigger than I imagined it and the theme imagineering is incredible!!!!



Inside the Millennium Falcon


Smugglers Run ride queue…cool stuff to look at!


Are we, or aren’t we smiling?


Another cool view from the Smugglers Run queue.



Some things at Disney ARE different – there aren’t any parades, per se – but we were right in the middle of a pop up parade with Mickey, Pluto, Minnie and Daisy walking down the street! We could never have gotten this close under normal circumstances!

We decided to head back to our resort for a refresh time and left the park around 4:30pm.  Some of us swam, I did dishes and laundry (totally my choice) and got ready for our dinner reservation back at Hollywood Studios at the Sci-Fi Dine-In – one of our favorite places to eat!!!!


Dusk at Hollywood Studios!


We love the Sci-Fi!!!

The park was so cool at night – because of the limited park hours, we won’t see as much after dark during this trip, so we scheduled our dinner late so we could see the park at closing!  It was an amazing Day 2.  Check in tomorrow for Magic Kingdom!!!!

Disney 2020 -Our arrival and Animal Kingdom Bonus Day

Sunday – our arrival was great!  We picked up our rental, drove to a Walmart 3 minutes from the Animal Kingdom Resort and picked up our food we had ordered earlier in the week (BEST grocery pick up ever!) and arrived at our resort.  Our room was not ready yet (it was only 1:30pm) but the kind folks at Kidani Village brought our luggage in and stored our cold food for us!  How many times can I say we love Disney!

We hoped back in the car and drove 5 minutes to Animal Kingdom for our Bonus day…a few hours in the park on arrival or departure day that are pure joy because there is no plan!!!!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

We walked right into the health check, got our temps taken and then through a metal detector and two out of three of us with backpacks got snagged for a bag check.

EVERYONE was wearing a mask and I seriously only saw a handful of people not wearing their correctly.  There are hand sanitizing stations everywhere you turn and physical distancing measures everywhere you look!  Disney has done a great job from what I see so far!!!


Kilimanjaro Safaris loading area.


Taking pictures on the move is tough, but I wanted to show you the distancing measures on Flight of Passage.



The queue at Expedition Everest

Then we were off!!!  We hit Pandora land and Flight of Passage, had one of the most up-close encounters with giraffes, rhinos and a sassy ostrich I have ever has on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride and had a blast on Everest!  The longest we waited was at Flight of Passage and that was MAYBE 30 minutes!



“Africa” at about 2:30pm on Sunday


The park was dead!  I am in heaven!!!  BEST TRIP EVER!!!!!