I was recently offered the opportunity to go on a grand adventure courtesy of Hyundai. A small group of bloggers and car writers were invited to the Hyundai headquarters in Montgomery Alabama and then allowed to drive a new 2017 Elantra Eco off the line and road trip it home (wherever that may be). It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about Hyundai, their facility, and the Elantra Eco. It was also a fantastic opportunity to see more of Alabama and Tennessee than I ever had previously. I had an incredible time, as did my husband, who accompanied me on this adventure.
It started with a flight to Alabama and a stay at the Renaissance hotel in Montgomery. The hotel was gorgeous and it was close to a lot of great food and historical sites.
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In all honestly I probably would have opted to hit a ton of museums, historical sites, plantations, and other southern treasures but my husband is not as into to that stuff as I am. So we chose to hit up some stuff we would both enjoy…aka natural wonders.
We started with a drive along the Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway… a 93 mile scenic drive through Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. One of the first and most beautiful stops was Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, AL. It is so named for a young Cherokee woman who leaped from the waterfall rim long ago.
The title of this post pretty much sums up our recent week long vacation in Florida. In Disney’s defense we did go during spring break which is super busy but after a ten or so year Disney hiatus I see no reason to return. We were that unimpressed. The age of Disney has passed for me I think and the magic I felt as a kid has worn off. No more pixie dust I guess.
DisneyWorld or The Magic Kingdom is the park we chose and I did so out of nostalgia. I went to DisneyLand every year as a child for either Christmas or Halloween. For my younger brother and I it was magical and we have so many incredible memories. Add to that the fact that our mother just passed and you can see why we wanted to make the trip and visit the magic again.
Our issues with Disney:
They just raised their prices, which was annoying as heck, especially since it is notorious for being so crowded you can barely move.
They have a bag check line for bags as small as a clutch. I had to wait about 30 minutes in this line after we busted butt to get to the park at opening.
We had about 2 hours of line free or low wait ride times. The rest of the day was 1-2 hours per ride.
We refused to wait that long so we used fast passes but there were none available at reasonable times (only at night). I think we used two of our three because there was no way we were going to hang out until 9PM at night.
Unless you want to pay $30 per person there is really no place to sit down and eat (out of the heat) unless you have reservations (which were all booked days in advance). This leaves you with a food truck or one of their cafes where the wait times were about 30 minutes of waiting in line and then it was no guarantee you would have a table to sit and eat at when you finally got your food.
I witnessed so many fights between spouses I could have written a juicy book.
I witnessed parents screaming at their kids and one guy gets top honors for telling his kids “they are f**king useless!!” This was after he spilled the food he had just waited 30+ minutes for on himself because he had to carry it himself. The kids were sitting and holding one of the only available tables for the record.
Is any of this stuff Disney’s fault?? I am not sure. I just know that it felt anything but magical. I only took one picture while I was there. I was just not feeling it.
We did however LOVE Universal and the kids did too. I have just as many fond memories of Universal as I do for Disney since those Disney trips as kids also included a trip to Universal Hollywood. My main reason for wanting to go on this trip was the Harry Potter world and I was not disappointed at all. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is worth every penny and every minute spent waiting in a line. It is the stuff dreams are made of.
Diagon Alley was enchanting. We walked around it for hours just admiring and drinking butter beer. My daughter who is a Harry Potter fan got a Hogwarts robe and an interactive wand as gifts from her Uncle. So we all had a blast walking to all the various places throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade that had areas where you could use your wand to do “magic”. There were several dozen places.
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Hogsmeade was way busier than Diagon Alley for some reason I cannot quite understand but it was also fun. The two harry Potter rides were also quite fantastic. The one where you are on a broomstick was incredible. The Hogwarts Castle and The Hogwarts Express were incredible. I just cannot say in words how magical it was to be in the world of Harry Potter.
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The rest of the park was pretty fun too. We rode all the major rides and saw all the major shows. We spent three days there so we were able to get it all done with minimal wait times. This was crucial because rides like Spiderman or Minions are not worth the 1-2 hour wait times they often have. The best tactic is to spend multiple days and tackle all the rides in the morning until you get to all the ones you want. And there are two parks to explore if you get the park hopper passes like we did. One of the very best times we had though was at the Horror Makeup Show and there was no wait for it. It was fantastic!
So lessons learned? The road trip was rough and I am not sure if I would want to drive that again. Listening to audio books on the way there and back was a big hit though. Disney was mostly a bust for us but we might try another Disney park next time. We would definitely go back to Universal (both parks). We also need a day or two of nothing planned because all the walking was exhausting!
All in all we had fun and made some good memories. My daughter walking around the Harry Potterverse dressed up as a Hogwarts student and waving a wand around? Yes, that is priceless to me. And to her as well…she’s been listening to the books on audio ever since she got home. We must ride the Hogwarts Express again one day.
When you’re planning a family vacation it’s important to take each individual’s needs into account. This means making sure everyone can join in with planned activities and that everyone can have fun. If you have a vegan in the family, making sure everyone will be able to eat can be a little more complicated, but with good planning you should still be able to enjoy a great adventure together.
What is veganism?
If one of your family members is vegan that person may have asked not to be given certain foods, but you could still be uncertain which foods are acceptable. In fact it’s simple: vegans don’t eat any animal-derived products. This means that they’re vegetarian but, along with avoiding meat and fish, they also avoid dairy products, eggs and honey. Most vegans also avoid products containing animal derivatives such as beef gelatin, which is present in many processed foods, and they avoid wearing leather or fur. In some parts of the world, there have been people living like this for thousands of years. Modern veganism has been around in the West for about 70 years. It’s increasingly popular, especially with young people, and you can find out more about it from the Vegan Society.
Choosing where to eat
When you have a vegan family member it can be difficult to find restaurants where everybody is happy to eat. Chinese, Japanese and Korean places usually don’t use dairy products, so are okay as long as they offer vegetarian options. If they are run by recent immigrants who are not sure what’s vegetarian and what isn’t, it’s best to ask for Buddhist food. Some traditional American restaurants are happy to take dairy products out of their vegetarian dishes where practicable. Vegans gradually become unable to digest the proteins in dairy food, so it can be a good idea to take an artificial lactose capsule before eating, in case of accidental contamination; this will reduce the risk of illness.
Where to stay
When you’re choosing accommodation, you may want to check first to see if there are restaurants in your hotel or nearby that can cater to vegans. Alternatively, you could choose a self-catering apartment where you can cook your own food. If you’re staying in a hotel, see if there is a fridge you can use; this will allow you to store your own foods, which the kitchen may be willing to cook for you.
By now, most people are familiar with the range of meat substitute products that are available to vegetarians – everything from tempeh rashers to soya mince. It’s important to note that many Quorn products are not suitable for vegans because they are made using eggs. These days there are also some great alternatives to eggs and dairy products, making it easy to substitute ingredients. Check out Hampton Creek’s Facebook to learn more about the work being done in this area. Hampton Creek food is also very healthy because it doesn’t contain trans-fatty acids or MSG. As a result, even a cook with no experience of vegan nutrition can now produce healthy, enjoyable meals.
On the journey
When you’re on a plane, getting the staff to switch ingredients isn’t really an option. When you’re driving long distance and relying on diners, it can also present a significant challenge. To deal with these situations, it’s a good idea to take plenty of snacks. Flapjacks, oatcakes and rice cakes are great because they pack a lot of energy into a small package and can keep you going for a long time.
Travelling with a vegan family member may require a bit of extra organization, but it’s far from impossible. A well-planned trip can still be lots of fun for all involved.
It is not uncommon these days to read stories about overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices. Admittedly it is a huge problem that we have to find solutions for. As consumers many of us are choosing to reduce our seafood intake and support well-managed, sustainable fisheries.
A story you may not read to often though is that there are ways we can increase conservation through participation. Yes, we can help conserve and protect our waterways and other natural places and the wildlife that lives there through: fishing licenses, boat registrations, fishing gear purchases and boat fuel sales. How can this be? Don’t these these detract from or “take away” from our natural spaces. Actually no, it doesn’t have to be that way. Proponents of fishing, and boating (and an other outdoor recreational activities like hunting) often do not realize how much money is funneled to these wild spaces through the activities they oppose. Money spent on the pursuit of these sports and activities is what pays to conserve and protect our wild spaces and waterways.
If you like to say that you need to put your money where your mouth is…well, your money needs to take you boating and fishing!
The sale of fishing licenses and boat registrations contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to aquatic conservation efforts every year. In fact 100% of funds generated from fishing licenses goes towards conservation. 1.5 billion is contributed to fisheries conservation annually by anglers and boaters. All of that money means better fishing and boating experiences because the money is funneled towards management, research, education, access, and fish stocking.
Since recreational fishing and boating is funneling millions of dollars towards conservation it only makes sense that families might want to include more of these activities in their leisure time. It is also a great way to get exercise, enjoy nature and outdoor spaces (no nature deficit disorder), and teach kids how to be protect fish and water resources. Getting kids out there on the water is a great teacher!
Things we might teach the next generation of boaters and anglers:
Clean boating – Avoiding small spills during refueling and routine boat maintenance.
Keeping marinas clean – Using less caustic or toxic products for boat maintenance.
Do not litter and never ignore litter when you see it – We all need to do our part when we see garbage along our waterways.
Use safer angling products such as lead free sinkers, biodegradable bait, barbless hooks, etc.
Never keep more fish than you can use.
Effective ways to catch and release without stressing the fish.
Tread lightly. Leave an area better than you found it.
Know and follow fishing laws. They are there for the protection of the fish and waterways.
Avoid shallow waters, shorelines, wetlands, reefs or breeding areas where our encroachment may cause harm.
Engage in local conservation projects and activities.
Conservation values are developed by encouraging children to interact with nature. With this interaction and exposure they are more likely to develop a conservation ethic, volunteer, recycle, and participate in recreational outdoor activities as adults. So not only can fishing help with conservation efforts through participation it can also help you raise healthy, well adjusted children. It’s a win-win all around.
To get started planning more boating and fishing adventures with your family check out Take Me Fishing. It is a great resource for all things boating and fishing and can help you get started with fishing locations, licenses, and so much more. Explore articles and videos on how to fish, how to tie fishing knots and proper catch and release.
Also look into making boating and fishing a part of your next family vacation. Take Me Fishing has partnered with Disney for instance, to provide fishing and boating adventures during your next Disney vacation. As I mentioned in my article on green family vacations at Disney, I participated in two fishing opportunities at Disney…cane pole fishing at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort—Riverside and Guided Bass Fishing Excursions on a 21-foot Tracker pontoon at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. You can read more about the Disney partnership here.
Lastly, peruse this infographic that shows exactly how money spent pursuing boating and fishing goes back into waterways and helps with conservation and protection. Enjoy!
If you asked me a couple months ago if I thought about Disney as a green vacation destination I would have said no, not really. I mean I would have said that I am sure they do some green things but in general I would not have thought it was a primary consideration for them. That was my thinking until I spent a few days at various Disney World Properties in Orlando last month. I came away with a vastly greater respect for Disney, especially in regards to all the work they do in nature conservation and to be better environmental stewards as a company.
If you think about all that goes on inside the operations of any amusement park you think about all the garbage they generate, all the junk food they serve, and all the useless souvenirs they try to pawn off on you. Disney is not without fault of course but I never fully realized all that they do be greener and more sustainable.
“The land itself—should be as dear to us all as our political heritage and our treasured way of life. Its preservation and the wise conservation of its renewable resources concerns every man, woman and child whose possession it is.” – Walt Disney
For instance, in January of this year Disney received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award. This award is California’s highest environmental honor, for waste-reduction efforts and boy have they achieved something impressive! Over the last 10 years, the Disneyland Resort has doubled the amount of waste diverted from landfills, and is working toward the long-term goal of achieving Zero Waste—a distinction already awarded to Circle D Corral at Disneyland park. In addition to recycling paper, cardboard, plastics and metal, Circle D Corral composts all animal waste, hand towels, laundry lint and coffee grounds from Disneyland Resort restaurants.
This is just the tip of a very deep iceberg. When collecting research for this post I ended up with so much information about their environmental stewardship and practices that I could not possible share it all but here are some highlights:
At Walt Disney World Resort, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth show (which I was lucky enough to see last month) dazzles Epcot guests with new environmentally friendly lasers. The show’s solid-state lasers use the energy equivalent of a hair dryer, saving approximately 64,000 watts of power with each show.
To date, Disney Cruise Line programs have eliminated more than 6,400 tons of metal, glass, plastic and paper from traditional waste streams through recycling, and removed 31,000 pounds of trash and debris from beaches and waterways.
Disney has a Climate Solutions Fund and it is one of the tools the company uses to address climate change. They charge their businesses for the greenhouse gas emissions they generate, and the money goes to the Climate Solutions Fund. With the fund, Disney can use this money to invest in forestry projects and improved forest management techniques. They have projects around the world from California to Inner Mongolia. Since 2009, they have invested in more than 147,000 acres of forested land—the equivalent of four Walt Disney World parks.
The animal waste at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is composted.
The Disney Conservation Fund has awarded more than $27 million to projects in 114 countries. The aim of funded projects is the study of wildlife, protection of habitats and the development of community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems around the world, and to help connect kids and nature through exploration and discovery.
Disney makes continuous technology improvements to reduce their footprint including the installation of a 1 MW fuel cell on their Pixar campus and LEED certification on their ESPN campus.
In 2014, 30 electric vehicle charging ports were installed at the Disneyland Resort—20 for guest use and 10 for Cast Member use. They have plans to add many more across their properties.
Disney has committed to the following long-term environmental stewardship goals: Zero net greenhouse gas emissions, zero waste, conserve water resources.
Since 1995, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) has supported the study of threatened species, the protection of critical ecosystems, and the development of community conservation and education programs in over 100 countries worldwide. In 2014, the DWCF funded more than 150 projects, surpassing a milestone of more than $25 million in cumulative giving.
So what does all of this look like when you visit the actual Disney parks? Well, here are some of my personal observations:
Upon check-in at the Disney’s Yacht Club Resort I received a stylish arm band that I can then use to enter my room, make purchases, enter the parks, use fastpasses to get on rides, etc. This reduces a lot garbage in the parks and resorts..no need for tickets, no need for paper receipts, no plastic room keys and so on. Plus you can reuse the same arm bands year after year.
A huge percentage of the land at the Disney resorts is left wild and virtually untouched. I was amazed by how big a part nature plays in the overall theme at each and every property I visited…which was several. In fact, nearly a third of the properties are dedicated wildlife conservation areas.
Disney parks provide a vast amount of nature related activities such as boating and fishing. Who knew??? I sure didn’t. In partnership with Take Me Fishing Disney offers onsite opportunities to go boating and fishing. I experienced two of them…cane pole fishing at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort—Riverside and Guided Bass Fishing Excursions on a 21-foot Tracker pontoon at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
There are hundreds of nature experiences provided to kids across Disney properties. It doesn’t have to be ONLY about a riding rides and seeing a mouse.
By offering so many adventures and opportunities onsite and providing group transportation you never have to go far to find the entertainment you want. This is prudent for them as a business of course but it also makes the most sense environmentally as well.
The Magical Express transportation system is genius. Get off your plane and board a bus with dozens of other guests. It provides a high occupancy transportation option and there is no need for everyone to get a rental car. You can use the same system to travel between resorts and parks as well.
Wildlife abounds on Disney properties. I love to see critters and birds happily living and playing on resort properties because I know that the impact is minimal…or the eco system surrounding it would not be thriving.
Healthy foods abound at Disney. There is no reason to eat junky food on vacation. I had some of the best food (tasty and healthy) I have ever eaten in my life while visiting there. They are also very happy to make sure you have gluten free everything if you need it.
Every Disney World theme park has organic and fair-trade products for sale. Yay!
I was very impressed by everything I saw at Disney World, Epcot, and the handful of park resorts I went to. While I have always been a Disney fan (heck I spent either Halloween or Christmas there every year!) I did have some outdated ideas about them. I am happy to find that Disney is leading the way for corporations on environmental issues AND providing a cleaner, greener vacation destination.
I leave you with a photo I took while fishing right next to the Disney World theme park. Recognize anything?