Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Family vacation plans

The kids' school was canceled (again), and *cue broken record* I'm losing my mind being stuck in this house!

Today was a rest day, so I used the entire morning to figure out some travel plans for this year. When Jerry was working at that other job last year, he was making really good money, and we decided to sock some away for a big family vacation in 2014. The only "vacations" we've gone on as a family over the years have been to visit my brother or sister, or a few days in a rental house with my parents. The kids are at the age now where I think it would be really fun to take them on a nice vacation. Jerry and I would love it, too, of course ;)

The original plan was to go to Orlando, Florida, and go to a couple of the Disney parks. I was there when I was (I think) just 2 years old; and again at 15. But I've never been a big Disney fan, so I haven't had a desire to go back. I guess I just thought it's someplace that every kid should go at some point, so we figured we'd plan our vacation there.

We saved quite a bit of money for this vacation, but I was still completely shocked when I looked up the costs and saw that it was way over our budget. I know there are cheaper ways of doing it, but the point of this vacation was to enjoy it without worrying about money. When I priced it all out on the Disney trip planner, it was about $8,000 for a week. My kids really aren't all that interested in Disney, either, so I started to wonder if maybe the theme parks weren't the best idea. Even Chandler thought it sounded a bit much...


I started looking at Disney cruises, which were definitely cheaper. My sister loves to travel, and has been on quite a few cruises, so I asked her about it. She said that we could do a Carnival cruise for about 1/3 of the price of the Disney cruise, and it would be just as fun--especially since we're not "Disney people". After seeing the cost of the Orlando vacation, I couldn't believe how cheap the Carnival cruises were--about $800-1500 for 5-7 days (plus airfare).

My sister suggested one other idea, which was an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana. Just hearing those words made me think, "Too fancy for us!" but when I checked out the website and reviews, I got a little googly-eyed, and I think that the resort will be what we end up choosing. It wouldn't cost much more than a cruise, and it would definitely be a lot less expensive than the Disney trip. It also looks like more fun--for Jerry and I, as well as the kids. And the fact that it's all-inclusive makes it much less stressful to plan.

Our tentative plan is to go the first week of December. It was kind of overwhelming while looking at all the stuff to do and places to stay. I think my sister was a travel agent in a former life, because she's awesome at that stuff, so I'm going to have her help me come up with a good plan. I'm excited to book the trip, so that we have something to really look forward to (and dream about while we're stuck inside our house with the temp at -20 outside!).




Yesterday, I got an e-mail from someone I "met" on a site called Open Diary many years ago. In 2000, I worked a 10:00 pm-3:00 am shift as a dispatcher in college, and I used to get really bored in a little office by myself. I went on Bored.com one night, which had a bunch of games, random facts, and links to sites to pass time. One of them was a site called Open Diary, which was a blogging site (only I don't think "blog" was a mainstream word yet). It was basically a place where you could keep a public diary, as well as read others' diaries, and leave notes (comments) on them.

It was a very small community (nothing like blogs are now!), but I wrote there from 2000 until 2011, before I started Runs for Cookies. I mostly wrote about my struggles with weight loss, all the ups and downs I had over the years; and eventually, I documented my success at losing 125 pounds. Through all those years, I had a handful of readers, and it was a very tight-knit community. Almost like a family! Everybody on OD knew everybody else.

But in 2011, I decided to start completely fresh. My life was a lot different than it ever was in the past--I was at a "normal" weight for the first time in my life, and I'd become a runner, which was taking up quite a bit of my time and thoughts. I decided to switch over to Blogger, for a change of scenery (and because it was much easier to upload pictures to posts than on OD). I started Runs for Cookies, which has become an enormous part of my life, but a piece of my heart has always stayed with Open Diary.

I never closed my account there (but I "hid" my diary from public). I still checked out the site a couple of times a week, to read about my old "friends" on OD. And fast-forward to yesterday, when I got an e-mail from Melissa, telling me that OD will be shut down within a week. She suggested that I download my diary while I still could, which I'd done.

When I first read the e-mail, I didn't think that it was that big of a deal that OD was closing up shop, but today when I went to the site, it just seemed so empty... everybody writing good-bye posts, and leaving info on how to find them when OD shuts down. I went to my diary one last time in order to delete it, and it was so hard to make myself click the button. Eleven years of my life were written there! Even though I saved a copy, it just felt sad to type in my name and see "The diary name you have entered does not exist".

Anyway, as a little tribute to OD, here is the first thing I wrote in my Open Diary:
"I have struggled through my entire life with a weight problem. It all started in 4th grade when one of my classmates nicknamed me 'Shamu' and the whole class started calling me that. I've tried diet after diet. This year is my freshman year of college. I've heard of the 'Freshman 15' but I gained the 'Freshman 30'. When I stepped on the scale at 205 pounds this year, I decided this is it. I'm not going to deal with it anymore. And here I am. That was about 2 months ago. I've decided to get ready to lose weight by deciding how I'm going to do it. I want to do it the right way this time, so that it stays off. Since then, however, I've lost about 10 pounds from drinking water instead of soda. That's all I've really done... I'm looking forward to beginning my 'new beginning'."
Of course, that didn't "stick" ;)  I lost a little and gained a lot, and lost some more, and gained even more. Up and down until 2009, when I finally made the changes that I was willing to stick with forever! I'm so grateful that I've kept diaries/blogs all these years, because it preserved so many memories of things that I'd forgotten about until skimming through a few posts today. When I was a kid, I always kept a handwritten diary, which I would later destroy so that nobody could read it; I really wish I still had those! They'd certainly be good for some laughs, if nothing else ;)

30 comments:

  1. If your kids ever do want to do Disney, I highly recommend Disneyland - it is much less expensive than Disney World and I've been to both.

    The cruises are fun - I've been on two!

    You guys will have fun I'm sure:)

    ReplyDelete
  2. You would LOVE an all inclusive resort! I lived in the Dominican Republic for a few years after college and went to a bunch of them. I think they are SO much better than cruises and less stressful. Everything is included (even alcohol and soft drinks!) and you can do things on your own time. I highly recommend an AI resort over a cruise, and Punta Cana is absolutely beautiful! Plus there are lots of resorts there that cater towards kids and/or families, which just make it that more fun!

    ReplyDelete
  3. OD is a lot like LiveJournal (LJ) was for us.... I'm guessing that day is coming too...

    Don't forget you'll need to get passports!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh LJ. I spent my teenage years angsting away on LJ. I do miss the "community" -- I feel like it's harder to find that online now.

      Delete
  4. I highly recommend checking out travelzoo.com ive used them to plan many an inexpensive vacation.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your 4th grade story reminds me of when I was in grade four (in about 1981 - I'm old!). My supposed best friend started calling me Blubber (the teacher had just read the Judy Blume book). Everyone called me that for a while. I wasn't even fat, looking back! I did develop a weight problem within a couple years, and was heavy until about 4 years ago, when I decided it was time to get the weight off. I lost 84 pounds in 13 months, maintained for about a year, and finally got pregnant after over 8 years of trying (we had given up a couple years before I started losing weight, so the pregnancy was a bit of a shock!). I had my baby in June of 2012. I still have about 15 pounds to lose to get to pre-pregnancy weight, and will probably try for another 10 to make me 100 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight ever (244). =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, that's a great story! So happy that you had your baby after trying for so long. Congrats!

      Delete
  6. Highly recommend Majestic Colonial in Punta Cana! Have been ourselves and sent others that loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  7. My husband and I just got back from a week in Punta Cana and it was gorgeous! (That's where I ran for your birthday 5k!)

    -Kelsey L

    ReplyDelete
  8. I just wanted to tell you I love your header! What a big difference in the before and after pictures. I love what running can do.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm curious how you came to that $8k figure for a week at Disney. We are a family of 6 and a week at Disney (and staying at a Disney resort) runs us $5k for a week. We are huge Disney geeks. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just used their "trip builder" (not sure what it's called, but it gave tons of options, and you pick and choose what you want). Like I said, I know there are "cheap" ways of traveling there, but this is a once-every-five-or-ten-years kind of trip, and I don't want to worry about expense. If my kids were really into Disney, then I'd find a way to do it, but they were way more excited about the pictures of the resort than Disney, so it worked out well ;)

      Delete
  10. OMG you are going to LOVE the all inclusive resort and so will your kids! And do not ever think it's too fancy for you. People of all types are at those resorts. We went to 2 in Cancun. One for our honeymoon and we loved it so much we tried another 8 months later for my husband's 40th bday. It's so fantastic. Stress free! We booked through Apple Vacations (via a travel agent) and I love Apple! The transfers to/from the airport are well organized and stress free. It's just fantastic! I'm getting jealous just thinking about it :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Tom and I did a Sandals vacation (all inclusive) for our honeymoon and it was only about 1500 for the week + airfare. We did spend a little more on out of the resort things and a day at the spa ect but not much at all. Sandals are adults only but they have a sister company Beaches for families and they are ALWAYS having super crazy sales. Another place we traveled to that was way cheaper than we expected was Belize.....it was AMAZING!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Go for the all inclusive.. it really is the only way to travel these days.. so much more bang for you buck. I am getting ready to go to Mexico in about 2 weeks.. All inclusive! We go to resorts that have children and it seems like they have a great time.. and I am pretty sure there are some resorts that are pay for an adult get a kid free....Oh and I suggest Dreams resorts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dreams is exactly the one I was looking at! :)

      Delete
  13. I used Teen Open Diary throughout high school! It's kind of surreal to look back and see your struggles, fears and successes at the time and realize how different things are now, but somehow many things haven't changed at all.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My family of 4 booked a Walt Disney World vacation for around $2000 and it was awesome. We stayed at one of the budget resorts, Pop Century one time and All Star Movies another, and we booked our vacations when they were offering the free dining plan which happens about twice a year. We went in December once, and January the other time because we do not like crowds. If you go in Dec. the crowds are lowest just after Thanksgiving through the first week of December. I really think you should reconsider the Disney World. The dining plan made all the difference to me. I didn't have to think about food or meals the whole week and there were lots of food options and we never went hungry. We got the fast food? dining plan. That's not the correct name but something like that. Here is the link for their Special Offers: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-offers/?int_cmp=ILC-US_EN-DPSOtoWDWFY13 You just have to keep checking back until they offer the free dining plan again. Whatever you choose for your vacation, I hope you have a blessed one! :-D

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think the whole family would love a Carnival cruise...they are a laid back environment, all food, tea, lemonade, & juices are included, kids have planned activities (if they want to join), you have multiple ports to see different places, dance shows, comedy or dancing in the evenings....and although some freak out over the notion of this...you can leave and return through the same US port without having passports for the entire family. Now if something would happen in another country while you're there you may have problems, and some people will definitely tell you not to do it...(we've been told that since traveling with birth certificates and proof of where we've been that the local embassy could get you home if they had to)...but it is legal to do it & we do it frequently...and you should do a cruise at least once just to see if you like it... happy vacation planning !!

    PS...book a room with a balcony...and I'm pretty sure all the ships have a track on top to run on..I know the ones I've been on do..pretty sure whole fleet does

    ReplyDelete
  16. I would avoid Carnival Cruises.....I have several friends who cruise all the time and say that the Carnival ships are very dirty and they are the ones that have the most illness issues. They recommend Royal Caribbean....

    Also, we have done Disney for WAY less than $8K. I highly recommend a site called www.mousemadesimple.com they will plan the whole trip and keep it to the budget you tell them, and they do NOT charge for it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love planning trips...I think deciding what to do is half the fun :) We took our two kids on their first "big" vacation in Jan 2012 (they were 5 & 8). We were originally thinking of going to Disney for a week, but we're also not really Disney people. (I'd never been there before, myself, and several days of amusement parks did now sound like a vacation to me!) We ended up deciding to do a 4 night Carnival cruise to the Bahamas (from Port Canaveral), then 4 nights in the Orlando area. We just did one day at the Magic Kingdom, so we could say we went to Disney ;) We also went to Kennedy space center, and spent a couple days hanging out at the waterpark at our resort. I really enjoy the lazy days of a vacation! Our kids loved the cruise (as well as me and my hubby), and we did a dolphin excursion when we were in Nassau that was the highlight of the trip :)
    We've only been to an adults-only all inclusive, but we loved it...it felt so luxurious and relaxing!
    I'm sure you guys will have fun whatever you decide to do!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm not good at planning trips either. Punta Cana sounds amazing!!!

    Ps Chandler looks like he was just caught licking himself haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's EXACTLY what I caught Chandler doing! hahaha

      Delete
  19. We just got back from Orlando. We had a timeshare unit at Sheraton Vistana. It was BEAUTIFUL. Four families (15 total) share three 2-bed units and shopped at Walmart for breakfasts and lunches. We spent $104 per family. We went to Paradise Cove to swim with dolphins. It was expensive - $350 per person ($200 w/o Dolphin experience), BUT the day was all inclusive - all meals/snacks PLUS there was a huge reef to snorkel in, lazy river (1/2 mile long) otters, birds - It was my favorite day of the week, and we would go again. The price also included 14 days unlimited at Sea World and Aquatica parks. We also added a buy 2 get one at Universal for $149 ea. The trip ended up costing us (including spending $, plane from MA and parks) about $3500. It was our UN-DISNEY vacation and my kids (11/14) had an AMAZING time! Just saying....
    My sister has taken her boys to Cancun (5 & 8) all inclusive... Also fun and reasonable if you don't want the "park" experience.

    ReplyDelete
  20. All inclusive is the way to go. My kids are still little but would love to do the same thing you are doing when they get a little older! We did all inclusive before kids in Puerto Vallarta and loved it. No stress about money just go to the beach and pool and the event in the resort. Your family will love it!

    ReplyDelete
  21. We went to an all inclusive resort as a family when our son was 8. We went a week on the Mayan Riviera, south of Cancun. Best vacation we ever took!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I have been a journaler all my life...have kept hard copy ones since I was in 6th grade and still write in one. I evolved from a my snoopy locking diary to spiral notebooks and then to my current bound Mead notebooks/compo books.

    A few years ago, I decided to start transcribing them onto the computer and to publish them (with names changed) on a Wordpress blog. I am not doing transcribing them but I don't link them to my account on Blogger because I only want strangers to see them and a lot of my family and friends read my Blogger blogs. I think some family and friends would be hurt (even with the names changed) by some of my journal entries because they forget that you are writing what you feel at that moment in time and not how you feel for life about something. My mom especially would be super hurt because as a teenager I said I hated her in my journal on pretty much a daily basis....and of course I never meant it, but she wouldn't see that.

    I have never heard of OD, but it sounds like some place I would have liked. I have been on Blogger since 2004 and if it ever were to go away, I would have to do some serious backing up of my blogs...sometimes I write on the blogs more than the hard copy journal these days so I would definitely feel a loss if they all went away. --Mishka

    ReplyDelete
  23. Long time reader but first time commenting. I have lived in Central Florida (Orlando area) my entire life. Not a real Disney Fan. But the best time to visit is February, March, April ,October and the beginning of December. Forget about coming here in the summer time because the heat and humidity is awful. The lines at the parks are very long and we have terrible thunderstorms every day. By the way, there are alternative activities to do besides Disney World. The beaches are great, the springs to swim, the west coast of Florida has some amazing beaches. Disney World and all the parks are fun but way over priced and expensive.

    ReplyDelete
  24. oh i didnt realize that you didnt know that OD was going down, i would have told you. (it was jsut announced this week).
    as for a disney world vacation, im not sure what time of year you were planning on going but my family of three went and stayed at a disney resort (therefore no renting of a car), got park tickets, with park hopper tickets and 1 day pass to universal studio (cause im a giant harry potter fan) for a little over 3000. we went in jan for 6 days. cause of when we booked we got our food included in the cost (definitely worth it)

    ReplyDelete
  25. I used to write on od too back in the day! Small world. I am new to your blog, but have been enjoying it!

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)