I recently spent a wonderful week in the land of Mickey and Minnie – and if Walt Disney
World is in your future, I have a few words of wisdom to share. Here are some tips that can
save you time and money.
First, don’t underestimate the power of the Fast Pass. This is an electronic or sometimes
paper ticket, that allows you to choose a specific time period to enter a ride, or a
character meet and greet, with a much shorter wait than the folks who don’t take the time
to learn the system – or those who waited until they got to the park to choose their
This service is available at no additional charge to all park guests. It can mean the
difference between hours or minutes of waiting to meet Tinkerbell or visit the Haunted
Mansion. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea, ask for help! If you are staying at a Disney
property, the concierge can walk you through the process, even before you arrive. Take
advantage of their help, or you’ll spend too much time on your smartphone or online at the
Fast Pass kiosks in the park.
Second, the magic bands are somewhat magical, but they are not the answer to everything. I
heard them described as a “room key, wallet and ride organizer” all in one. But that’s not
accurate. In particular, there are many vendors in the parks who don’t take the band as
currency, so you should always have some cash on hand.
Next rule, don’t over plan. I made the mistake of reserving seats at multiple character
breakfasts. You really only need one, maybe two in your itinerary, to thrill your little
ones with an up close character interaction.
Remember, there are four parks to prepare for: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and
Hollywood Studios. You’ll want to do as much research as you can ahead of time. But even if
you feel confident, be sure to double check the location of any special events, because
things can change from what’s written in the guidebook or online.
One last bit of Disney advice, if you’re spending the money to stay at one of the fabulous
Disney properties, set aside one day to enjoy your resort. They each have incredible
activity lists, kids programs and unique personalities. There’s even one that looks like
New Orleans in case you get homesick.
Consider the ages and abilities of everyone in your travel group. And most of all, keep in
mind, you are at the happiest place on earth, so try to keep the stress at bay.
I’m Stephanie Oswald. I’ll see you next time.
This story has 9 updates
I recently spent a wonderful week in the land of Mickey and Minnie – and if Walt Disney
If you’re not quite ready to let go of summer all together, there’s still time for a mini-getaway in your hometown. How about a staycation?
I want to tell you about a few deals designed to encourage NOLA residents to explore their own backyard.
First, an educational getaway of sorts. Boost your cultural knowledge for free, because August is museum month in New Orleans.
If you are a member of any one of 15 museums across the greater New Orleans area, you can visit the other 14 free of charge, now through August 31st. For example, show your membership card for the Audubon Institute, and get into Noma, or the National World War Two museum, at no cost.
Maybe now’s the time to check out the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, the Old U.S. Mint, or the Irish Cultural Museum. Each is offering two complimentary tickets to participating museum members.
Now, maybe your idea of a staycation means sleeping somewhere other than your own bed!
If you have a favorite NOLA hotel, check out its website for local specials.
Here are a couple of my favorites.
Now through September 15th, Louisiana residents can stay at the Roosevelt Hotel for $129 a night on weekdays and $149 a night on weekends. It’s called the Louisiana Purchase Promotio. And if you’ve ever stayed at a Waldorf-Astoria property, you know what an incredible deal that is. Locals also get twenty percent off spa treatments each Sunday through Thursday at the Roosevelt’s magnificent spa.
Over at the Bourbon Orleans, on Thursday, September 10th, you can take an elevator to bed. The hotel is hosting a social networking event in its ballroom that night, and to encourage locals to escape in their own city, the hotel created this deal for $109 per room. A free welcome drink is included and you don’t have to attend the networking event to get that bargain rate.
All great reasons to stall that final farewell to summer 2014!
I’m Travelgirl Steph, and I’ll see you next time!
If the New Orleans heat has you dreaming of cooler temperatures, there are plenty of places to “chill” in Memphis, Tennessee.
Take a six-hour road trip due north and you’ll be walking on Beale Street, singing the blues, and perhaps sipping on an ice cold beer, fresh from the tap at one of the three new microbreweries that opened last year.
Here’s a stop that’s especially popular with couples or solo travelers: bathe in Memphis musical history at the Levitt Shell, an outdoor amphitheater with royal bragging rights. It was the site of Elvis Presley’s first rock-and-roll performance.
In addition to a summer line-up of free music, August brings a free concert film series to the Shell. This year’s picks highlight Billy Joel and Led Zeppelin, among others.
The August 29th featured flick is dear to Memphis hearts. It’s WATT-STAX, a documentary about the 1972 Los Angeles concert that evolved as “The Black Woodstock.”
It’s based on a story that came out of Memphis, at Stax Records, the recording studio where legends the likes of Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes got their start.
Where the recording studio once stood, you’ll now find the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, just a few minutes drive from Beale street. Pay the twelve dollar admission fee and spend an hour or so steeped in soul, gospel, rock, pop, jazz and R&B.
Families seeking some R & R on the Mississippi River can head for Beale Street Landing, where a newly opened riverboat complex has a splash park, a playground, a riverfront restaurant–and plenty of places to relax and watch the river traffic pass by.
Here’s one more pick to soothe the stress of summer: if you find yourself in Memphis homesick for a fabulous sno-ball, make your way to Jerry’s Sno-cones. This funky eatery is a local phenomenon, with 70-plus flavors and countless fans. It’s well worth the 15-minute drive from downtown.
Whether you choose to chill out with shaved ice, soul music, scenic views or cinema under the stars, Memphis will not disappoint!
I’m Travelgirl Steph, and I`ll see you next time!
(WGNO) - If you’re stuck in a summer slump, maybe it’s time to get away for a few days! The best part about living in our corner of Louisiana is that there are plenty of great cities just a short drive away!
Travel pro Stephanie Oswald shows you all kinds of things to do when you hit the road for hot-lanta!
Sometimes a change of scenery can help you beat the heat, even if your destination of choice also is suffering from temperatures that call for fans, sno-balls and turning up the AC.
The Georgia capitol is just a 7-hour drive from New Orleans or if you’re lucky enough to snag a deal on airfare, the hop to “hot”lanta will only take about an hour.
Once you’re there, here are 3 ideas for cooling off.
- Nothing beats the great outdoors, even in the summer: Sweetwater Creek State Park. From kayaking, to moonlight hiking, to stand up paddleboard instruction, there’s plenty of recreational fun to be had at this Georgia treasure.
[Sweetwater Creek is only minutes from downtown, but you'll forget how close the skyscrapers are, when you're hiking nine miles of trails that take you into the woods, through fields of wildflowers, and up on rocky bluffs.]
Rent a fishing boat and explore the George Sparks reservoir. In addition to casting your lines, you can feed the ducks or enjoy a picnic.
Here’s a Travelgirl pick for August: the full moon hike on August 9th will cost you $11, which includes parking. Register in advance at 770-732-5871.
- For anyone on a girlfriend getaway or maybe a ‘man-cation,’ big city fun can be had by all at the W Hotel in midtown Atlanta.
Now through October, head to the fifth floor any Friday or Sunday. The W’s rooftop pool, the ‘wet deck,’ is open to the public on those days, from noon to 8 p.m., so anyone willing to pay the $25 food and beverage minimum can join the sleek scene, while taking in sweeping views of the city skyline.
Take it up a notch and rent your own cabana, complete with top-shelf alcohol, towel service, and plush robes. Unwinding in this fashion is a Travelgirl splurge at $300, plus tips!
- This last Atlanta attraction has a name that won’t really sit well with anyone from these parts, but someone must have thought it was a good idea.
Thrill seekers, put on your swimsuit and head for Hurricane Harbor, the new multi-million dollar water park at Six Flags Over Georgia.
You’ll find a maze of plunging water slides, a giant wave pool and the world’s first hybrid zero-gravity drop slide, called the Tsunami Surge which sends groups of four riders at a time, down a 5-story drop, and then spinning down an enclosed tube to a whirlpool bowl.
This new attraction is included in six flags admission, which is $62 for adults, $42 for kids, for a one-day ticket.
Whether you opt for the state park, the hip pool scene or the thrill rides, you`re sure to feel relief from the heat on this cool getaway.
I’m Travelgirl Steph and I`ll see you next time!
I’ve given lots of advice on traveling with kids.
Today, I want to share a few tips for anyone taking off with a furry, four-legged travel partner
Pet travel requires some preparation, especially during the summer months.
Here’s a checklist to review before you head to the airport or hit the road with your pet.
First, be sure to confirm the pet policy with your airline, and/or hotel. Even if you’ve traveled with Fluffy or Fido on a certain airline or stayed in a specific hotel in the past, treat each journey as a new one and double check the rules. That way you won’t get stuck with a fine… or worse!
Next, update and pack your pet’s paperwork, including a vaccination report, a list of current medications, and your vet’s information.
Research online or call the hotel concierge to ask about a recommended veterinarian near where you’ll be staying.
Be sure to bring along a familiar toy or blanket from home to help your pet acclimate. And have them get used to any new travel crate well before your journey begins.
Don’t introduce any new foods during a trip; if you`re worried about what will be available once you arrive, pack or ship your pet`s food so that you can keep their diet consistent.
Finally, I turned to my favorite pet expert, Pet Trendologist Charlotte Reed, for her favorite summer travel tip–and it’s a good one.
She said treat your pet’s skin like you do your own and buy pet sunscreen. Don’t use human sunscreen. Talk to your vet and find one that is FDA compliant.
For dogs, you’ll want to apply it to their ears, muzzle, and their belly every few hours that your pet is in the sun.
You can follow the petrendologist on Twitter @charlottereed for more advice. And of course, follow me @travelgirlsteph for all kinds of travel tips for pets… and for humans!
The obstacle course of getting from point A to point B can be trickier on a holiday weekend. So this is when it’s really important to pack your patience!
AAA says that more than 40 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home this year to celebrate Independence Day, making it the busiest summer travel holiday.
More travel means more spending. But, listen up, AAA says. We’re not making more money. We’re just willing to take on more credit card debt!
But, if you don’t want to load up your credit card, here are a few ways to cut costs and still get away this weekend:
First, parents spend a lot of money on souvenirs that they can get for a lot less by making a stop at the arts and crafts store. Pinwheels, balloons, glow-in-the-dark jewelry–these items are available at your local discount shop or craft store. Load up on the trinkets before you go to keep your kids happy and your budget on track.
Secondly, if you’re taking a road trip, or will be renting a car at your destination, remember to bring your discount gas card. I have my numbers typed into my phone. Many grocery store chains that offer gas discounts have locations nationwide. So, you never know when those numbers might come in handy.
Finally, consider taking the bus! You won’t need to worry about gas prices or distracted driving if someone else is behind the wheel. We are lucky in New Orleans. Megabus.com goes to a dozen different destinations from here, including Memphis, San Antonio, Orlando and Atlanta with fares starting at one dollar, if you book far enough in advance.
You won’t get that rate for the 4th of July at this point. But there are still some deals out there. And it’s a lot lower than a last-minute plane ticket.
If you plan now for a late summer vacation, keep in mind, just like with air travel, fares are cheaper on certain days. If you can take the bus on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, you’re more likely to get a deal.
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Today I want to share some packing tips with you, not necessarily how to travel “light,” but how to travel “right!”
There are a few items you`ll always find in my suitcase or carry-on that have multiple uses. I call them my collection of surprise travel tools. They are easy to pack and have come in handy more times than I can count!
First – for eating on the go, anywhere, anytime: chopsticks! You never know when you’ll need dining utensils, and these simple sticks can keep you from starving.
You could be waiting to board your plane at the gate, or riding a camel on a safari in the middle of the desert.
Wooden chopsticks hardly take up any room, they won`t be a problem at airport security, and they are sturdier than plastic forks and spoons.
So the next time you order Chinese take out, pick up a few extras and slide them in your carry-on.
Now, here’s one for every travelgirl – or guy – who brings along a little bling… plastic drinking straws!
Use them to keep your necklaces from being tangled. Cut them as needed, to fit your accessories, and then, tuck them into your jewelry bag or toiletry kit. It`s an easy, inexpensive way to keep your precious jewelry safe and sound.
Next, here’s an idea to help you see clearly when it comes to mini-storage: contact lens cases.
Most people who wear contacts have an endless supply of these plastic containers, normally used to store your lenses overnight. But when you`re traveling, you can use the extras to store small earrings, pills, or even a small supply of make-up for on-the-go application!
Another plus – a thief looking to steal your diamond stud earrings probably won`t think to look there!
Finally – extra luggage tags, not to use for your luggage, but instead, for your kids.
This is especially useful for families traveling to big amusement parks or attending outdoor events.
I also recommend it for anyone traveling through busy airports with kids or even when you`re taking a road trip and you know you`ll be stopping at highway rest areas.
Make sure you choose a tag with a flap that has to be lifted in order to see the information, or one with an identification card that`s not blatantly obvious.
Why? You want to be sure that no shady characters can read your child`s name or other information from afar.
So there you have it – four easy to get items to help you travel more smoothly on your next journey.
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Here’s a few tips on how to be a “frugal foodie.” In other words, how to make fine dining part of your vacation without totally disregarding your travel budget.
A trick I always recommend to anyone visiting me here in New Orleans, but it works for other cities too: if you have your heart set on a high end restaurant, see if you can reserve a table for lunch instead of dinner. You’ll find the same excellent service, with a lower price tag.
The next tip is for when you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, taking a cruise or using a tour operator: find out about any meal plan options that let you pay in advance for a discount. For example, some cruise lines offer programs that let you order bottles of wine to be served at dinner for the length of your cruise. You won’t get any money back if you don’t finish it all, but you receive a nice discount when you pre-order. The key is these deals usually need to be reserved and paid for ahead of time, and won’t be available once you board. So ask about them when you are booking your trip.
Here’s a tip for anyone renting a vacation home: take advantage of the kitchen, even if you don’t want to prepare every meal. Just having breakfast on hand, snacks for the kids or coffee and wine for the adults, can lead to some major savings. Then you’ll have enough money to splurge for that special dinner without feeling guilty.
To get that same savings if you decide to go with a standard hotel, try to find one where breakfast is included – or see about getting a room that has a small kitchenette or at least a refrigerator. Even if it costs a few dollars more, you’ll come out ahead in the long run.
Last but not least, bring the fine dining home with you! I’m not talking about leftovers! Purchasing a cookbook from a destination known for its food can provide you with years of memories and edible adventures to create in your own home. And, if you make it to a famous dining establishment, there’s a good chance the chef has a cookbook for sale. Get it autographed to make the souvenir even more memorable.
That’s the recipe for traveling and treating your taste buds, without devouring your budget.