When should you travel? Any chance you get! I retired last June from teaching and I’m happy to say that I have been on quite a few getaways. I may not have traveled the world or been overseas, but I think it’s important to always have something to look forward to.
My last day of teaching after 30 years was June 26th, and on June 27th my daughter and I were off to Universal Studios in Florida. We love going on rides so it’s a perfect trip for us to take. We stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. This hotel is onsite with a walkway and a water taxi to the parks. It has a great Italian theme with a variety of fountains, statues, sculptures, and mosaics throughout the resort.
My daughter surprised me with a retirement pin and champagne and we were off to the Universal Studios Park. The funny thing was when we first got to the hotel and had lunch, we asked the waiter about the the walkway to the parks. He said it was far and he had only done it once. We must of walked that path 20 times in the 5 days we were there. It really wasn’t far at all and we took great pics on the walkway including at the beautiful butterfly garden along the way.
Universal Studios has many movie themed rides and attractions. When you stay in a hotel onsite, you get a pass that allows you to go on a much quicker line to get on the rides. Disney should really have something like this. You can get on a lot of rides and attractions in one day. We especially enjoyed the character interactions in Universal.
Islands of Adventure is the other park in Universal which tends to have more of the thrill rides like The Incredible Hulk Coaster and Jurassic Park River Adventure. This is where you will find The Wizardly World of Harry Potter which is something you really need to experience to truly understand. The newest ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike is one of the best rides I have ever been on. Islands of Adventure also has Seuss Landing which is fun for all ages. You will see familiar characters at both the attractions and shops. The Cat in the Hat, Hop On Pop Ice Cream Shop, and If I Ran the Zoo, just to name a few.
In addition to the 2 main parks, Universal also has City Walk and Volcano Bay The City Walk is great at night to grab a nice dinner and a few drinks preferably margaritas. We like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and Hard Rock Cafe . After a night at the parks, my daughter enjoyed a treat from Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and souvenir shopping. Volcano Bay is a water park with something to do for all ages. I liked the lazy river, wave pool and the raft rides. My daughter was braver and sampled the zero gravity drops, twists, and turns. Volcano Bay has the virtual line feature which I think all parks will have in the near future.
Most of the summer I spent dog sitting which allows other people to travel while I safely watch their dog(s). Dog sitting is my new job now that I’m retired. I wrote in a previous blog about how you need to Find Three Hobbies You Love when you retire. One of them should help you make money to travel with. I did go to the beach, pool, Old Westbury Gardens where I am a member, Fire Island, The Oheka Castle, and many other places using my strategy of googling Things to do Near Me.
In September my husband, son, and I, took a road trip to Washington D. C. for a few days to celebrate my son’s birthday. We are Disney Vacation Club Members so we used points to stay at the Mandarin Oriental. This was all a great idea I had to make sure my physically disabled son would have a memorable 26th birthday. Unfortunately, I planned this trip before my son met and fell in love with his girlfriend. We had a good time, but it was a kind of an under appreciated endeavor.
We made a trip to D.C. a few years back and walked the Mall and had an extensive tour of the Capital. We visited the Supreme Court, all the Smithsonian Museums, and the National Archives. So on this trip I wanted to do some different things and did my research online. Unfortunately we were denied a White House tour which was a big let down. I thought that would have been a fun birthday activity.
When we checked into the hotel it was pretty clear from the other guests that the tourist season was pretty much over and business casual was the appropriate look. Being a teacher for 30 years never led to a September vacation so this was all new to me. Nevertheless, it was hot and we all had on our summer casual look.
My son is in a wheelchair, so believe it or not it’s actually easier for us to walk everywhere around D.C. than travel any other way. On our first afternoon we headed to the Newseum. This was somewhere we had never visited so we thought we would check it out. We heard it was closing down and I’m not surprised because the politics were completely one-sided not making it very welcoming to half the country.
The best part about the Mandarin is that you can easily walk to places like the Mall from the hotel. They also have a great concierge with drinks and food set up which is really the only reason I like this hotel. The last time we were in D.C. was during a record heatwave years ago in June which made walking around challenging. It was still shorts weather in September (not at the Mandarin) which made life easier for us.
Our first night we walked to the Mall during dusk which was kind of special. Everything looked a little more majestic that time of day, and we took some great pictures.
On my son’s birthday we took a Duck Tour at Union Square. The people couldn’t believe we walked there from the Mandarin. It really is a great way to see everything. If you never did a Duck Tour you should! They are actually a very big thing in the city of Boston. Duck boats are amphibious vehicles that were used during WWII by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. to ferry ammunition and supplies to fighting units on the beach. These tours are fun because the driver is always very entertaining and you actually learn a lot while you travel by land then sea.
After the tour, we walked the city and visited the Old Post Office, the Indian Museum, the Africa American Museum, and the Botanic Gardens. They were all worth seeing, but I especially enjoyed the Botanic Gardens.
One last good thing about the Mandarin is that it is in walking distance to the newly developed Waterfront of restaurants and shops. Naturally being on the water there are many seafood restaurants to choose from and there is a wonderful walkway too.
Before we left D.C. we walked over and visited the Museum of the Bible. This was something I really wanted to do after watching the Bible series on television. It did not disappoint and I highly recommend it to people of all faiths. It has many modern technological features that I haven’t seen anywhere else in D. C. at their museums. It’s hard to capture in pictures so I posted a couple of my favorite Bible verses instead that they had displayed.
D.C. was a great road trip and we even stopped for a few hours at the Arlington Cemetery on the way home. I guess overall my son had a pretty good birthday, and I vacationed in September for the first time!
The following month was my daughter’s birthday and my husband and I did an over night stay in Binghamton. On my daughter’s birthday you better think of good things to do! I used my Things to do Near Me strategy and found a lot of activities for a fun-filled day! We started at Ross Park Zoo. This is a small zoo but we still had a lot of fun exploring. Since it was the month of October kids were encouraged to wear costumes and there were a sprinkling of decorations throughout the zoo. They called it Howloween at the Zoo. They had a petting zoo, wolves, penguins, an endangered species exhibit, and even a sloth. We had fun, but we usually do wherever we go.
Our next stop was the Phelps Mansion Museum where we had a scheduled tour. This was great and I highly recommend it if you are in Binghamton. This mansion is an 19th century landmark featuring the furnishings and many other artifacts of the time. The mansion is located on what was once referred to as Mansion Row. It is the only mansion left standing. Our tour was both informative and entertaining. We learned many interesting details about the Sherman D. Phelps famly at 191 Court Street during this era.
We stopped briefly to explore Cutler Botanic Garden located on upper Front Street. It has free admission and was surprisingly picturesque and made for a great stroll. The garden was established by Miss Frances Cutler, who donated land to the Cornell University Extension.
We visited two great restaurants to celebrate my daughters Birthday. Dos Rios Cantina and 205 Dry. Dos Rios Cantina has a great bar set up and a very nice bartender. You can eat at the bar too if you like. They also have table service. The bartender was great and surprised my daughter with a shot of tequila with the new sparkler set up, and they did a very catchy happy birthday song. 205 Dry is considered a Speakeasy Restaurant. A Speakeasy going back to prohibition. You walk in to shelves and shelves of books to hide that it was a drinking establishment. Drinks and food were great here too!
We had a great day in Binghamton celebrating my daughter’s birthday all using my strategy of googling Things to do Near Me.
Later in October I headed to Amesbury in Massachusetts to visit friends. Why not? I am retired. It was great to see my friends, and it was really the first time I can recall enjoying the beauty of the season of Fall. I always related Fall to going back to work.
Being a person who loves the outdoors and hiking, the first day we headed to Amesbury Town Forest. The Town Forest is 80 acres with many miles of marked trails. Strolling through a forest without a care in the world is a wonderful feeling. Newly retired, I admired the fall foliage with fresh new eyes. A trail of fallen leaves is really a thing of beauty.
During my stays with my lady friends there’s usually a lot of eating out, sightseeing, and lots of cheer. We frequented quite a few restaurants such as the Ale House which is located in a picture perfect town, and my friends were sure to show me the beauty that is all around this area. Once again being fall in New England made it even more spectacular.
Since it was October, I suggested we head to Salem, MA one night since I knew there would be some goings on for Halloween. I had been there before and visited the Witch Museum, The House of Seven Gables, and learned all about the Witch Trials. Before we reached Salem I had interest in doing one of the Haunted House Tours, but when we started walking around I chickened out. So we strolled though the streets and checked out the shops and did a “non scary tour”. We had fun but I haven’t been brave in many years when it comes to haunted outdoor activities. (Getting old)
We also visited Salem, New Hampshire which actually pretty close to Amesbury to visit America’s Stonehenge. Here you have a small entrance fee and you are encouraged to start with the short film before heading out on your adventure. As you walk through the grounds there are a series of stone structures. It is theorized like the Stonehenge in England it was built by ancient people well versed in astronomy and stone construction. The site is an actual astronomical calendar where stones appear to align with solar and lunar occurrences such as the Summer Solstice. They do have events here such as the Summer Solstice Celebration and they advertise snowshoeing in the winter. It was great visit to see friends and hope to head that way again next year.
Back home led to a series of holidays and all the preparation that goes along with that, and of course plenty of dog sitting. In the New Year, my daughter and I embarked on a 10 day adventure to Puerto Rico and a Royal Caribbean Cruise. We departed the day that I would have returned to school if I wasn’t retired. I write all about this in Cruise Travel. This was my last trip before our world changed forever. I say all the time how blessed I was to go on all these trips, especially the one in January. We had a great time, but it would of been nice to know it would be my last trip for a long while.
I pretty much watch dogs, save money and travel. I spend a lot of time planning my travel because I believe it is important to always have something to look forward to. Well in the end of March, my husband and I were this close to going on a vacation for the first time without kids in 26 years to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Right before we were to head to The Bahamas everything turned bad with virus. Little did I know how bad. A lot more than 15 days to slow the spread. I also had a trip to Disney World with my daughter kabashed which was suppose to take place at the end of her junior year of college.
So when I ask, “When should you travel?” I really truly mean any chance you get because at any given moment life can change!