Telling Tourists To Stay Away

Tourism is the #1 industry in Hawai’i. We love having tourists come to the islands to relax and experience the beauty and culture here, and spend their money even if they do make traffic a bit more congested at times, or cause other problems. Still, it’s often unsettling to discover damage, or unwanted changes caused by increased tourism, no matter how much income it brings.

There are no plans to curtail tourists coming to Hawai’i. Other locations around the world though have become or are becoming victims of their own outreach or desirability. Tourism, or the number of tourists invading these places has gotten bad enough, or is causing so many problems, that some popular travel destinations have placed restrictions on visitors or are thinking about it.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, here are a few popular tourist destinations around the world that are either already limiting the effects of too much tourism or trying to, including actively encouraging people not to come. Some of them may surprise you!

  • Norway: Not only because of the number of tourists showing up at popular spots, but because of the rising cost of tourist rescues, accidents and injuries, Norway is considering limiting the number of visitors at popular spots, like Pulpit Rock (seen above) and other  natural sites.
  • Zion National Park, Utah: Zion saw over four million visitors in 2015. This huge amount of visitors has caused land erosion and overwhelmed facilities throughout the park, and the numbers haven’t dropped since then. In order to mitigate the damage that’s happening, the National Park Service is considering a cap on the number of visitors allowed into the park. A strategy for this has been put in place and is still accepting public comments. A plan is expected to be released in 2019.
  • Barcelona, Spain: This Spanish city is nearing its “saturation limit” of tourists, and wants to limit the number of visitors before that limit is breached. The plan includes freezing hotel development and putting a new tourist tax in place, one geared for day trippers and cruise visitors.
  • Iceland: This island country has become a victim of its own success in drawing visitors. From May 2014 to May 2015, the number of visitors increased by 75% over the same period of time from 2013-2014. There is now believed to be more American tourists coming each year than there are residents in the country. Currently research is being done on how “full” sites can get before the experience is degraded, and based on that research limits may be set.
  • The Galápagos Islands: The number of tourists coming to these special islands over the years put a huge burden on the nearly 9,000 different species that reside there. In 2007 The Galápagos were named an endangered heritage site. These days nearly 97% of the islands is a national park, and tourism is carefully monitored. Strict rules limit visitors to particular places, and they must travel with a licensed guide. These changes meant that The Galápagos were able to be removed from the endangered list in 2010.
  • Santorini, Greece: One of the most picturesque and popular spots in Greece, last year this small town hosted an average of 10,000 tourists per day during the peak season (Santorini’s population is only 15,500). Visitors from cruise ships have now been limited to 8,000 per day which has helped some. (There are no restrictions on the number of visitors who fly in, as they are considerably less than those from cruise ships.)
  • Venice, Italy: The rising water levels are not the only thing having an impact on La Serenissima. There have been so many tourists in recent years that it’s predicted the native population will be reduced to zero by 2030, primarily because of rising rents as more space is needed to house visitors. Many residents want cruise ships banned from the harbor, and also want large tourist groups to have to book ahead of time. There are no official plans yet, but apparently strolling around the city visitors can find posters letting them know how sick the residents are of tourists.
  • Machu Pichu, Peru: The number of visitors to this site high in the Andes is now limited by UNESCO. Foreign visitors must have a guide, follow one of three designated routes through the site, and have time limits on their visit so groups don’t become backed up. Still, even with these steps Machu Pichu was placed on the Endangered Heritage Site list in 2016. Approximately 1.2 million visitors arrive every year (average of 3300 per day), but officials want to limit the number of visitors to 2500 per day.
  • The Cinque Terre, Italy: This collection of five villages on the Ligurian coast of Italy has already had the number of visitors allowed capped by the Italian government. In 2015, the Cinque Terre hosted 2.5 million visitors; in 2016 the number allowed was reduced to 1.5 million (much of the area lies in a national park, so numbers can be monitored).
  • Antarctica: Several restrictions have been placed on visitors to this pristine area: No cruise ship with more than 500 passengers can go to a landing site, and only one ship at a time can dock. Only 100 visitors at a time are allowed onshore. In order to visit this frozen continent tourists much use a designated operator, and visitors are carefully monitored while they are ashore.
  • Mt. Everest: In order to curb more ecological danger to the area, Tibet has already started placing restrictions on who can climb the world’s highest mountain. Among the changes are an increased fee for foreign climbers (now $11,000), novice climbers are banned, and there are both minimum and maximum age restrictions for all climbers. Also, only small climbing teams are allowed now in order to protect against bottlenecks or logjams on the mountain.
  • Other popular tourist destinations either already limiting or considering limits on tourism are The Seychelles, the country of Bhutan, Lord Howe Island off of Australia, or Koh Tachai island in Thailand.

A couple of these places are on my bucket list. But, living in a place that welcomes loads of tourists, and sometimes seeing the not-always-positive impact of so many visitors, I completely understand why action has been taken, or is at least being considered, in the above locations. Reading about the issues these places face and their desire to allow tourism but not let it overtake them or change their ways too much should make all of us think more about being a better visitor when and wherever we travel.

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You Don’t Have To Be Rich To Travel


One of the biggest myths out there, in my opinion, is that travel is always expensive, and unless you have a huge income or trust fund there’s no way you can go anywhere exciting or interesting, or have a good time. Magazine and newspaper articles, cruise brochures, or blogs with gorgeous photos that show expensive hotels and destinations have led many to believe that unless they’re spending a ton of money, it’s just not worth going. The message seems to be: money = fun.

Traveling is not free (nothing is), but it’s just not true that you can’t go where you want, have the experience of a lifetime and a good time too even if you’re not loaded. Wonderful, inspiring and fun-filled journeys can be taken for a lot less than you might imagine. Even if your income is minimal, if you want to travel you can make it happen.

The great thing is that today there are loads of websites, blogs, apps and so forth devoted to travel bargains that can help make your travel dreams come true even if you have a minimum wage job and/or kids. There are so many ways out there to not only save for travel, but also ways to save while you travel.

Here are a few ideas for how you can travel even if your income is limited:

  • Make saving for travel a priority. Even if your income is small, you can save if traveling is your goal. It might take you longer than others to gather enough funds to take your trip, but it can be done. These are my favorite ways to save, but there are loads of other ways to add to a travel account. The one exception to this is if you are carrying debt, get rid of it first! It’s so much better to be able to cover all your travel costs and expenses before you go, and not have to come home to even more debt.
  • Search out information on how to travel on a budget. One of my favorite travel websites is Nomadic Matt, a blog dedicated to traveling more for less. Matt has pages of tips for taking great trips and making great memories for less. He encourages travelers to think differently, and look for the travel deals that exist out there. The Thrifty Nomads is another great site for learning how to travel for less. There are lots of other sites as well for things like house-sitting or swapping, earning miles or other travel points, etc. – just do a search for budget travel bloggers, check out some sites and see where they lead you.
  • Change your mindset. This is perhaps the biggest step someone can take if they think they can’t afford to travel. One of the biggest obstacles to traveling for less begins with the thought, “I’m too poor to travel” or something along those lines. Start by getting rid of the idea that everyone who is traveling has money or income or time that you don’t – that simply isn’t true. Instead, tell yourself that you can travel, and then start looking for ways to make it happen. Start small, but open yourself to finding extra income, to looking for travel alternatives like using sharing services, or to earning bonus miles with your credit card or other opportunities to make your travel dreams a reality. If you don’t believe you can afford to travel, you never will.

If there are places in the world or just in your own state that you want to see, I firmly believe that almost anyone can make it happen even if they’re not rich or well-off. It takes determination, savings, knowledge and a maybe a change of thinking to make it happen, and it may take a while to achieve a your goal, but it can be done. Travel dreams can come true!

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Travelin’ Shoes

Cute shoes which turned out to be very uncomfortable for extended walking.

One thing that both Brett and I learned on our trip to Japan this past spring is that the shoes you travel with can truly make or break the experience.

Both of us took along shoes we thought would be comfortable but in fact were not, and we and our feet were miserable the entire time.

Shoe purchases for our Big Mystery Adventure™ have become a  priority here at Casa Aloha, and the focus will be 1) comfort and 2) durability.

Both Brett and I have “difficult” feet. Brett’s feet are flat and wide. Mine are wide (although not as wide as before bunion surgery in 2013) and I have very high arches. I also have very little to no padding on the balls of my feet, so without a soft, cushioned footbed my feet can start to hurt quite quickly. I also prefer a shoe I can easily slip in and out of, especially when we’re visiting Japan.

My very comfortable Finn Comfort clogs

I purchased my first pair of travel shoes last week, a spendy pair of Finn Comfort clogs. They get very high ratings for comfort, especially  when you’re on your feet for a long time. They’re not the prettiest shoes out there, but after wearing them around the house for three days I can honestly report that they are super comfortable and have great arch support. I think they will prove worth the expense.

Clark’s desert boots

Brett gets his first new pair(s) of shoes next month beginning with a new pair of running shoes. We’re getting them now because they will probably need to be replaced before we go – running is not only hard on shoes but they also stand a very good chance of being permanently stained by Kauai’s red dirt. He also plans to get a pair of Clark’s desert boots and/or a pair of Merrell slip-ons next month (hasn’t made a decision yet).

Both of us want a pair of Allbirds wool shoes, loungers for Brett and the women’s charcoal gray runners for me. This brand also gets rave reviews, and we think they will be both comfortable, lightweight and accommodate our wide feet.

Allbirds charcoal gray women’s runners

Allbirds mens lounger (Brett doesn’t want this color though)

Finally, we both will be needing walking sandals. Brett is looking at Keens, but I’ve got my heart set on a pair of Kenkoh massage sandals from Japan. I’m currently wearing a cheap knockoff pair, but my feet love them and I’d love some real Kenkohs even more. I’m also seriously wanting another pair of Mephisto’s Helen sandals. I wore out a previous pair I owned, but they are wonderfully comfortable and have great arch support.

Mephisto’s Helen sandal

Kenkoh massage sandals

All these shoes are going to cost us $$$. We’ve fiddled the budget to add some each month for travel shoes, and will start adding them pair by pair when we can. A concern, besides cost, is that all of them put together hopefully won’t weigh too much, but we think we’ve erred on the side of light versus heavy when it comes to our choices.

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Even More Clues!

We are not going to Iceland.

Back in May, I posted the following clues about our upcoming Big Mystery Adventure™, which will be beginning in less than a year (!!):

  • We will be leaving right after we take YaYu to college in 2018. Depending on what school she ends up attending, that could be in either August or September.
  • We will be taking at least four plane flights after we leave YaYu.
  • The trip will cost more than $7000, which is our travel  savings goal for this year. We haven’t set a firm goal for next year but will be saving all we can before departing.

There are other clues from previous posts in the blog:

  • We will be needing large suitcases versus traveling with carry-on only.
  • We will be transitioning seasons.
  • The word BIG is in the name.

But it’s time for a few more clues:

  • We’ll be traveling for more than a couple of months.
  • We’ll be bringing our passports.
  • We’ll be visiting family.
  • Our lodging will primarily be Airbnb rentals.
  • We’re taking one organized tour.
  • We’re taking one scheduled railway excursion.
  • Don’t forget the word BIG!

We still can’t reserve flights or lodgings until we know where and when YaYu will be going to college, but it’s looking more and more like we’ll be beginning our adventure in late August of next year. The itinerary is pretty much solid now – we just may need to wiggle some dates once we know when the journey will begin.

I’m ready to reveal all now, but Brett wants to hold back and make sure a couple of things are firmly in place first, so I will bow to his wishes and stick with our plan to tell all after the first of the year.

In the meantime, any guesses?

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Postcard From: Summertime Japan

Parks are a popular place to stay cool during the summer

Even on the narrowest of streets, summer plants and flowers pass along a feeling of coolness.

Let’s be honest: Summertime in Tokyo can be HOT. And HUMID. And MISERABLE. I complain a lot about the heat and humidity here on Kaua’i, but it’s child’s play compared to what can be experienced during a Tokyo summer.

Mugi cha (wheat tea) was an acquired taste for me. I hated it at first but now find it more refreshing than regular iced tea (and it’s caffeine free).

Visiting Japan in the summer requires a different mindset, but can be enjoyable and a chance to see and experience activities and foods that are not available other times of the year.

Traditional Japanese culture views the seasons a bit differently than in the West – they’re meant to be experienced, both the good and the bad, and not masked. That means in winter you should experience a little cold, and in summer you should experience hot. While air-conditioning abounds in stores or on trains and other public places, it is often not used in the home, or not as much as we would here in the U.S. It’s not just that it’s expensive to operate A/C, but summertime is hot, and the underlying belief is one should appreciate the hot of summer a bit. Also, too much air-conditioning is not considered healthy, especially for children.

The sound of furin is one of summer’s delights in Japan.

Homes in Japan often hang furin (small bells) outside or in doorways and windows during the summer. Made from glass or iron, the bells have a large paper strip attached to the the clapper. The paper moves in the slightest breeze and rings the bell to evoke a feeling of air moving, and thus coolness.

Dirty, polluted air is a thing of the past in summertime Tokyo (thank goodness).

Still, sometimes things can get to the point of being dangerously hot. On days when the temperatures climb to broiling, and the humidity is high, you will hear loudspeaker announcements throughout the city warning residents to stay inside and stay cool rather than risk heat stroke or exhaustion. One thing that has improved greatly since we lived there in the 1980s and early 1990s is that these days the air is clean(er). When we were there the combination of heat and pollution during the summer was awful, but these days blue skies can be seen almost all of the time (unless there’s a storm).

Cool biz outfits from Uniqlo

Following the 2011 tsunami, and the catastrophic loss of the Fukushima nuclear plant (which affected power to many areas of Japan, including Tokyo), the government began a major, nation-wide plan to lower energy use during the summer, called Cool Biz. Government and other offices raised their thermostats, and workers were encouraged to wear special lightweight, comfortable clothing instead of the usual heavier suits and ties for men, and stocking and suits for women. Although Cool Biz seems to be a permanent fixture (and there’s now Warm Biz standards for winter wear), it’s not mandatory and initially caused some awkward moments in protocol between Cool Biz and non-Cool Biz offices.

A traditional festival game for children: if they can snag a ball with a small hook they get a prize.

Bon odori is a popular summer festival, and they can range in size from small to huge. The central platform holds drummers and dancers, and attendees, both men and women, dance around the platform, typically in lightweight cotton summer kimono, call yukata.

Candles are floated down a river, or out to sea, at the end of bon odori, to escort the ancestors back.

The Gion Festival is a massive event held every summer in Kyoto, and is filled with lanterns, floats and portable shrines of all sizes.

Festivals (matsuri) abound during the summer months, from small street fairs to temple fairs to fireworks displays to giant events with crowds of people. I got to a point that just hearing the word festival sent waves of terror through me because of the crowds I knew I would encounter, but in reality the crowds were never unruly, and people were always polite, cordial and helpful. Bon odori season arrives in August, when Japanese families welcome back the spirits of their ancestors for a week, and celebrate with festivals and dancing, then end the celebration by floating candles down a river or out to sea. Many Japanese return to their home villages (furusato) during this time of the year, but it’s not difficult to find a bon odori festival in any city and join in the dancing and celebration.

My grandson contemplates the size of his kaki gori. It came with small pitchers of fresh strawberry syrup and cream to pour over the ice.

This banner, with the word ‘ice’ on it, lets you know kaki gori is available. The waves and small plovers in the design are traditional motifs, and evoke summer.

One of the joys of summer in Japan is kaki gori, or Japanese shave ice. It’s served at festivals, in stands throughout Japan, and even in fancier restaurants. Kaki gori is a mountain of fluffy shaved ice topped with fruit syrups, and is extremely cooling and refreshing. Japan also has the most amazing assortment of ice cream and frozen treats I’ve ever seen. You can stop into any supermarket or convenience store and find something that will refresh you.

Cold somen noodles over ice with dipping sauce are a cool summer treat.

Special foods are also available during the summer, such as cold somen noodles with dipping sauce, or chilled silken tofu with thinly sliced green onions, soy sauce and grated ginger. Summer foods are often served in glass bowls or dishes, some made to look like ice, to evoke a feeling of coolness.

Besides lots of rain and high humidity in June, the summer months also can bring typhoons.

June is the month for baiyu or tsuyu, the rainy season, when humidity is at its peak, and the rain can drag on for days. When we lived in Japan, even though we had air-conditioning and humidifiers going, the humidity was bad enough that things would still mold, including shoes, backpacks, and such. June really can be miserable, but other months during the summer, even with the heat and humidity, can be a wonderful time to visit Tokyo and the rest of Japan, and experience the delights of summertime Japan.

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26 Travel Questions – The Home Edition!

Here we go!

  1. Which do you prefer: tours or independent travel? I have nothing against tours, or organized travel, but I still prefer doing it on my own. There are travels/places though where I would definitely book a tour (like a photo safari in Africa or if I ever visit India).
  2. What’s the first thing you check out when you reach your destination? I scout out where I can get a good cup of coffee, hopefully without having to go to Starbucks.
  3. What’s something sort of ordinary you like to do at your destination? I love to check out local supermarkets, mini marts, etc. It’s interesting to see what food costs, what stores carry, how they’re the same or different from American stores, etc. It’s also an interesting way to get a glimpse of the local culture. I also love to visit bakeries even though I’m not eating carbs any more.
  4. Street food: Yea or nay? I mostly say yes to street food, although I check it out pretty carefully before eating. I’ve eaten some amazing things from food stands and carts (and had a few losers too).
  5. What’s your ideal travel breakfast? Ideally it would be yogurt, fresh fruit and a little granola, but I’ll eat anything as long as it’s not too heavy. I’m not a fan of pancakes or french toast, but if I see Eggs Benedict on the menu I’m going to order it.
  6. What’s your favorite road food? I prefer to eat at local restaurants versus chains if at all possible. Thankfully there are lots of different ways to find those local places these days. Favorite food? It used to be a good hamburger or sandwich for lunch, or chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner. Now that I’m low/no carb, I’m not sure what I’d order, and it doesn’t help that I can’t eat salad.
  7. What’s the most important thing you pack in your suitcase? Along with a desire for adventure and a sense of wonder, it’s a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
  8. Do you roll or fold your clothes when you pack? I do a little of both. I prefer rolling, but have a couple of items that just don’t want to roll.
  9. What do you pack in your carry-on? I usually only travel with a carry-on, so everything I need for the trip goes in. If I were checking a bag though my carry-on would have a change of clothes (and a couple of changes of underwear), basic toiletries, electronics, important paperwork and snacks.
  10. Which do you prefer: tote bag or backpack? I definitely prefer carrying a tote bag if at all possible when we travel. Brett prefers a back pack though, so we’re able to switch things around between us so that we can carry everything where it makes sense. I’m planning to carry a backpack on the Big Mystery Adventure™ though.
  11. What’s most important when you’re planning travel, transportation, lodging, food, or sightseeing? They all play such different roles, but lodging is probably the most important in my opinion. Even if we don’t spend a lot of time there, without a clean, safe place to sleep and bathe the rest of the trip can fall flat.
  12. In your opinion, what are the three most important phrases to know in a foreign language? 1) Thank you; 2) Excuse me/ I’m sorry; 3) please. After that you can add I don’t understand, where’s the bathroom?, how much? and so forth. The “magic words” in English are just as important elsewhere else as they are here.
  13. What have you noticed most about Americans when you travel overseas? We can be very loud, we’re sadly often overweight (me included), and we can be annoyingly condescending at times. We can also be very friendly and helpful.
  14. What are your least favorite ways to travel? Neither Brett nor I have ever had any desire to pull a trailer or drive an RV – it’s just not our thing. I have nothing against cruises either, but there are other things I’d rather do than float around on a ship (and for the record, I have been on a cruise – once was enough for me). Brett has said though he’d like to see what it’s like to take a cruise and not have to work 20 hours a day.
  15. If you have a choice, which would you prefer, a road trip or a flight? It really depends on how much time we have. We’ve taken some great road trips, and enjoyed them, but if time is limited, or I want more time at my destination, I’m going to book a flight.
  16. Which do you prefer: aisle, middle or window seat? If it’s a long flight, I prefer a window seat – it’s easier to find a good sleeping position. Depending on who else is in my row, I’m also OK with a middle seat.
  17. What are your favorite in-flight activities? I like watching movies, doing sudoku puzzles, and sleeping. I’ve tried to read, but have always ended up feeling sick.
  18. Which is your favorite airport? I love our little airport here in Lihue. When I go through it  I’m either going on a trip, or I’m home.
  19. Do you ever purchase travel insurance? We have purchased insurance a couple of times, on trips where we’ve spent a lot of money, but we’ve thankfully never really needed it. Our health insurance covers us anywhere in the world, so we’ve only gotten insurance to cover what we’ve paid for flights and lodging.
  20. What’s your favorite travel-day outfit? It depends on which time of year I’m traveling, or where we’re going, but usually a pair of L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants, a light sweatshirt-type of top (to keep me warm on the plane), and shoes I can easily slip off for security and during the flight. If I’m going somewhere hot I’ll wear linen pants and a light shirt, flip-flops, and carry a light sweater for the plane. Wrinkled linen is OK.
  21. What are your favorite travel snacks? They used to be granola bars, Chex Mix, good chocolate, and water. These days I take along nuts, beef jerky, good chocolate and water. I usually don’t drink alcohol when I fly, and besides water I like Diet Coke or Bloody Mary mixer.
  22. How many states have your visited in the U.S.? I have visited 48 states – I haven’t been to Montana or Alaska.
  23. How many national parks have you visited? I’ve visited twenty, from Acadia to Zion, and I’ve stayed at both rims of the Grand Canyon. There are still a lot more parks I want to see though.
  24. What are your favorite national parks? Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Zion are my top three. Bryce Canyon and Crater Lake are right up there as well.
  25. How many foreign countries have you visited? Just six: Canada (2x), Mexico (1x), China (4x), Hong Kong (when it was a British colony – 7x), Taiwan (1x) and of course, Japan (4x for visits, and lived there twice for a total of six and a half years). There’s still a whole lot more of the world out there for me to see!
  26. Who is your favorite travel companion? All of our children have always been fun travel companions, and I’ve taken some great trips with friends, but of course Brett is my favorite. He’s my best friend, we always have lots to talk about and almost always want to do and see the same things when we go somewhere.

Can you think of any more questions? And, I’d love to hear your answers to all or just some of the questions!

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One Year To Go!

Just a little over a year from now YaYu will be going off to college, and after we have her settled Brett and I will be setting out on our Big Mystery Adventure™.

One year to go! While we’re on track financially and otherwise right now, there is still much to be done, and as we have learned from past experience time is going to fly by, not just because we are going somewhere, but because we have goals to accomplish and a deadline to meet, along with so much going on around us.

As exciting as the thought upcoming travel is, getting YaYu through her senior year, helping her get her college and scholarship applications finished and sent off in time, getting her to practices, meets and testing on time, and guiding her to the eventual soft landing of graduation next May is our main priority, and is going to keep us very involved and busy.

We also have to get through the holidays, and next year’s birthdays, which come right after Christmas. We’ve already met our savings goal for Christmas, and bought our college girls their tickets home, but whether our son and family will be joining us this year remains up in the air. Our son has said if they don’t come for Christmas, then they should be here for spring break next year. It’s always busy and crazy and expensive when the whole family is together, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

The only “unknown” right now is if we’ll be able to renew our lease this fall. Our landlord has told Brett several times that we are welcome to stay in this house as long as we like, and so Brett’s not worried about this at all. However, our landlord is terminally ill, and depending on how that plays out things could change, so I admit to being a tiny bit nervous. We’re going to ask at the beginning of next month about renewal (our current one expires at the end of October) because if there is going to be a change we need a couple of months notice to start looking for a new place and all that entails.

During this coming year there is going to be a lot more saving to do, as well as plans to finalize, reservations to be made, clothes and other necessary items to buy, and so forth. The schedule for all of this will pick up after the first of the year, but time will be moving even faster at that point. We can’t start making actual reservations until we know where YaYu will be going to school, and when she has to be there, but we should have that information no later than the end of March next year.

At the end of all of this though Brett and I will be taking a BIG, wonderful trip. Just one year to go – I almost can’t believe it!

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To Disney or Not To Disney

The mere mention of the word “Disney” can set many travel aficionados’ teeth on edge, but I confess to being a Disney fan, and our family has made several trips over the years to the parks, and had a wonderful visit each time. I grew up approximately 45 minutes away from Disneyland in California, went for the first time just three months after it opened in 1955, and visited many, many other times with my family, with friends when I was a teenager, and with Brett and our son when he was a toddler. Brett and I have also visited Disney World with our son and the girls several times – it was often easier to find cheaper round-trip airfares to Orlando from Portland than to Los Angeles. And, Brett and I have been to Tokyo Disneyland as well, which was an interesting experience. It was Disney with many similar rides, etc. and yet it was still so different. We’ve never taken a Disney cruise, nor have we visited the Disney parks in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Paris, so I can’t (and won’t) speak to those experiences.

Admission to Disneyland plus 10 “E” tickets was only $4.50 in 1967.

I personally don’t understand all the animosity towards the Disney parks. I’ve heard many complain that a day at a Disney park is too expensive (the price for a one-day ticket currently ranges from $99 to $119 per person at Walt Disney World, depending on the time of year or day of the visit, but goes down the more days you visit), and a week’s vacation has the potential to cost several thousands of dollars. The parks’ intense focus on all things Disney, and the gift shops at the end of every ride can seem excessive and cloying. The food is expensive. It costs to park your car, etc. The biggest complaint I’ve heard though is that it’s just all so . . . fake.

What seems to often be forgotten is that the Disney parks are first and foremost amusement parks. They are amusement parks taken to the highest level, and ones where it may take more than a day to experience all that is offered, but like any other park anywhere there are rides, attractions, shops, places to eat, and so forth. Those country pavilions in Epcot are just areas offering a glimpse of a country, and not intended to substitute for and actual visit. Of course they’re fake. They’re in an amusement park.

Park visitors, especially those who try to drop in for a day’s visit, are often disappointed by the experience, starting with the expense. Especially if it’s their first visit (and it’s hot), the long lines for rides can be disconcerting or exasperating. The cost of food for a family can be exhorbitant, or there’s no seating to be had at restaurants. Many leave feeling discouraged and full of animosity toward Disney, claiming it’s a rip-off, and that they’re never returning.

What’s forgotten is the high cost of actually operating a park on the level and size of the Disney ones, the cost of paying the friendly employees, the cost of keeping the parks sparkling clean, the cost of all that electricity (did you know though that Disney World burns most of its trash to help provide much of its own power?), of paying vendors, etc. Quality costs, and if nothing else, Disney provides quality. And lots and lots of people want to have that experience.

Here are some things we learned over time to ensure that even a one-day visit to any of the parks is fun and memorable;

  • Do some research before you go!! I can’t emphasize this enough, even if you’re only planning to go for a day. There are whole guides devoted to visiting Disneyland or Disney World, and websites like AllEars.net or MouseSavers.com (among others) are full of good information and tips for how to get the most out of your visit. There’s a lot to see and do, and unless you’re planning to stay for longer than week, there’s no way to see it all, but with planning you can see and do more than you thought you could.
  • If you’re planning to visit for more than a day (and you really should, if you’re going to Walt Disney World), use a Disney-specific travel agent to arrange your stay. You can book your own visit on the Disney websites, but there’s no charge for the Disney-specific agents’ services, and they will make sure your entire vacation is special. They can help get you reservations at a Disney resort without busting your budget, get reservations at the extremely popular character meals or high-end restaurants, as well as arranging other perks. We used Small World Vacations more than once – their service was superb. I highly recommend staying on resort property if you can – there are many, many benefits that include free transportation to and from the airport, free luggage transport, free delivery of items purchased in the parks to your room, and best of all, early admission and late stays at different parks each day. You also have a convenient location to return to during the day for breaks (especially nice if you’re visiting with small children).
  • The portion sizes at the park counter-service restaurants are huge. We found that sharing three meals versus each person having their own provided more than enough food for our family of five, and saved us quite a bit of money. We always also brought in our own granola bars and bottled water to save on snacks (you’re allowed to bring in any food that does not require heating). We found that purchasing the meal plans at Disney World – available if you’re staying at a Disney hotel – also saved us quite a bit, and allowed us to eat at some places we might not have been able to enjoy otherwise (Tip: dinner on the outside patio at the British pub in Epcot was the best place to be for the evening firework show). There are healthy choices available at almost all restaurants, whether sit-down or counter service.
  • Become familiar with how fast passes work, and have a plan to get them as soon as you enter the park in the morning. If you are traveling with with teenagers or other adults, you can assign each person to a particular ride for passes, and then reconnect afterwards to get started on your day.
  • If you can’t get passes, take advantage of single rider lanes if they’re available – they move more quickly than the regular line. We used this feature as much as possible when the girls were older, but they were still almost always seated in pairs, and we always had a designated meeting spot outside for when everyone finished the ride. One time YaYu had to sit alone with another family, but agreed to go after the family promised us they would watch over her. They did, and got her safely to our meeting spot.
  • Be ready to go early in the morning, when the parks open. It takes a while for the crowds to build, but if you can be there when the parks open, and head straight toward your favorite ride(s) you’ll practically have the ride to yourself, sometimes two or three times, before the line begins to build.
  • The best Disney souvenirs are your own photos. Neither Brett nor I care for Disney-branded items, so we never really bought anything more than maybe a sweatshirt for the girls, but our solution for all the tempting gift shops was to give each child their own money at the beginning of the visit – they could spend it however they wished, on whatever they wished, but when it was gone, it was gone. They were not allowed to ask us to buy them anything. It was amazing how less tempting all those items in the shops became when they had to spend their “own” money.

None of us here at Casa Aloha has a desire to go to any of the Disney parks any more – that itch has been scratched. However, we had a more than wonderful time on each the trips we made to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, made memories that we still talk about now, and Brett and I feel the expense was well worth it, and my parents apparently did as well. If I had it to do over, I’d still take each of those vacations again – they were magical, for me when I was young, and for our own kids. My most precious Disney memory is of five year-old YaYu crying from happiness as we waited for the bus to take us to the airport to go home. She had been with our family, and home in the United States, for less than a year, and her early years in the orphanage had not allowed her to imagine that there was a place in the world that was so amazing and so much fun.

In my opinion, the key to enjoying and getting the most from any visit to a Disney park is remembering that it’s Disney, and that you’re visiting a very popular, high-end amusement park. If you can keep this in mind, and prepare yourself before you go, you won’t be disappointed, and you might be able to enjoy some of the fabulous features and special effects to be found throughout the parks. However, if you don’t like amusement parks, don’t like crowds, and haven’t prepared yourself for the expense or the experience, then you’ll probably end up very disappointed.

How do you feel about visiting the Disney Parks?

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Addicted To Travel

I love to travel. As the saying goes, “If traveling were free, you’d never see me.” But, could there be such a thing as too much travel? Could someone actually “overdose” on travel?

I was very surprised to learn the answer is yes. While not a physical addiction, travel “addiction” is real, and although it’s been called by some “the healthiest addiction,” an obsessive need to travel actually has a name: Dromomania, or “vagabond neurosis.”  Some psychologists argue that dromomania does not meet the criteria for a true addiction because it does not cause “an urge to engage in a particular behavior, denial of the harmful consequences, and failure to modify the behavior.” However, in some cases excessive travel does meet those conditions, with sufferers having an abnormal impulse to travel, being prepared to spend beyond their means, and willing to sacrifice marriages, family, jobs and financial security in a “lust for new experiences.”

According to this article in Conde Nast Traveler, the first recorded travel addict was Jean-Aldert Dadas, who left the French army in 1881, and wandered into a Bordeaux hospital after walking around Europe for more than five years. He had visited various European countries and cities, and yet when he arrived at the hospital had no memories of those places other than he had been there.

Travel addiction (or obsession) is closely intertwined these days with competitive traveling. made up of people who dedicate their lives to going, quite literally, everywhere. Known as “country collectors,” or “tickers,” these travelers collect places like others collect stamps or coins. Spending time and money, and driven by compulsion, they not only want to see the world, but keep score while they’re doing it. Blogs such as Most Traveled People, Nomad Mania, and Shea’s ISO List indicate that there are tens of thousands of people competing to be the most widely traveled.

True travel addicts/obsessives can’t stop themselves, and are willing to risk everything to go somewhere. Some of these travelers have lost spouses (one travel addict has reportedly lost six wives because of his need to keep traveling!), their homes, their fortunes, all in the quest to experience the high of seeing and experiencing someplace new, and the emotional fulfillment travel provides.

Humans have always wanted to travel, to see what lies beyond, whether that’s the next town over or what’s over the horizon. Travel has the potential to make us all smarter, happier, and more creative, but the high it provides can also become too much of a good thing for some. While travel provides a bounty of new experiences and memories, as well as an escape from the humdrum of daily life, too much of it, whether for the thrill or in an effort to be competitive, seems to create a risks. Instead of becoming closer to knowing a place, with obsessive travel one might actually grow further away, as there’s always a next destination to get to, someone else’s score to beat. In these cases, the escape becomes the desired experience, not the destination.

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Creating SMART Travel Goals

Both Brett and I have always been big fans of setting goals and then working to achieve them, whether that’s downsizing or moving to Hawai’i or saving for travel.

We create our goals using the SMART criteria, and it’s worked especially well for travel planning. The SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Long before we ever travel, Brett and I sit down, talk about what we want to do, what we can afford, and then make our travel goal the SMART way. We’ve been using this method for many years, and it’s led us to success over and over again, no matter what we want to achieve.

Here’s how we use the SMART criteria when creating a travel goal:

  • Specific: Being specific means knowing exactly what we want to do. Instead of saying We want to travel or We’d like to visit xxx, both of which are vague, we spell out exactly where we want to go, when we want to go, and who will be going. We want to visit Japan with our daughter for a week in March during her spring break is very specific while We’d like to go to Japan is not. The first example has a where, when and who will be traveling, while the second example is just an idea.
  • Measurable: This means creating a precise way to quantify our goal. A travel goal contains both time- and money-related aspects, and both require some research. Instead of We want to stay 10 days and spend less than $10,000, a measurable goal is We want to spend 10 days and nine nights. We want to pay less than $700 each for airline tickets, no more than $xxx for lodging and our total budget can be no more than $8,000 (or whatever we decide our top limit is). The top limit of our budget is the number we will be working toward, and the time aspect is making sure we can take vacation at that time or that there’s nothing else that might make it difficult to travel.
  • Achievable: The travel goal needs to be what we know we can attain and complete in a specific amount of time. Giving ourselves a goal of saving $8,000 in a year for our trip is not achievable if we know that will be impossible, or that we’ll need to raid our savings or use credit cards or borrow money (and we don’t want to do those things). A specific SMART goal would be: We need to save $8,000 in the next 12 months (~$670/month) in order to make this trip during spring break. We’ll set up a monthly savings allotment, save all our refunds and gifts, save all change and $1 bills, and find other ways to save as much as possible. If we are sure we can achieve our goal, then we go for it; otherwise, we start over or reset our parameters with what we know we can achieve.
  • Realistic: This part of the goal is tied very closely to achievable, and allows us to visualize the results of our efforts. Besides just getting to our destination and knowing where we’ll stay, we also need to think about what we can afford or will have time to do when we’re at our destination. Realistic means that while we may dream of flying first class or staying at the Four Seasons, there’s no point in doing so if it will consume all or most of our budget, and not allow us to do anything else at our destination. However, if flying first class and staying at the Four Seasons is our dream, then we’ll have to reset our original time parameters or figure out a way  to earn or save more within our original time constraints.
  • Time-bound: We make sure we have a timeline for achievement. Setting a SMART goal for travel not only requires that we set the actual date for travel that we work toward, but that we also research and set specific time-goals along the way. So, while we’ve figured out that we can save $8000 in a year to cover all our expenses, we also need to know time-sensitive issues that will arise while we’re saving. For example, We will need to have $2500 of our $8000 by such-and-such date to purchase airfare and reserve our lodging (because we don’t want to leave these until the last minute). Besides air fare and lodging, our trip may also involve several other time-related issues that arise before actually traveling, things like booking tours, or getting restaurant reservations, so those may need specific time deadlines as well. Once again, research is our friend.

Because Brett and I can’t just whip our checkbook and cover any trip whenever we feel like it, using the SMART criteria has meant we’ve been able to make most of our travel dreams a reality without using credit cards or dipping into our regular savings, or putting ourselves into debt. Setting up a SMART goal can take a little more time, but almost always ups the chances for success.

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