Surprising as it would be to Ross and Jamie of 2014, Ross and Jamie of 2017 are addicted to Walt Disney World. So faced with a few weeks where our annual passes are blacked out, I wanted to check an item off my bucket list: visiting the Disney resorts during the holiday season.
All of the resorts (aka hotels) decorate for the holidays, but while some of them keep it very simple, others are known for going all out, from Christmas trees and wreaths to gingerbread houses and trains.
I knew that realistically, I wouldn’t get to see them all. (Could I? Sure. But it would get old and I don’t want to spend all of my free time driving to busy parking lots.) So I narrowed my list down to a Top Ten, with the goal of seeing at least two resorts and more, depending on how much energy Ross and I had this past Wednesday.
The day got off to a slow start. We both slept in. I was ready to go by 11:15, but Ross needed another half hour or so, and ultimately after some stress and discussion and debate we decided yes, we’re doing this, and we’re in the car by about noon, with a cooler for lunch, lots of water and a sunny day to explore.
If you decide to do this, I recommend a car (even if it’s a rental) because Disney doesn’t have direct buses from resort to resort. I also recommend bringing lots of water because most resorts don’t seem to have very good water fountains.
My number one choice was Port Orleans – French Quarter. I fell in love with the beautiful, Mardi Gras-inspired color scheme and decor here. The resort itself is really well themed and Christmas made it even more special. I had heard it was a pretty walk by the water to Riverside (during the daytime, a boat is also available, and the boat goes to Disney Springs all day too) so we walked there to check it out. Their dining hall and bar looked amazing!
After walking back, we headed to my real reason for wanting to come here. They have gluten-free beignets! The kitchen staff were perfect, making me feel so safe, and I got hot chocolate sauce to pair with it. You can order 3 or 6, and though I planned to share half, I ended up eating 5 out of 6 because my husband loves me.
The beignets are outstanding. Not quite the melt-in-your-mouth texture you’d expect from the gluten kind, but out of this world delicious, and even better paired with chocolate.
After stuffing myself with sugar, we headed out to the car to make our way to my second choice resort: Grand Floridian.
As you can tell by those two photos, our initial attempt failed. We tried to park at Grand Floridian itself, but their lot was too full, so it was restricted to those with a reservation. Instead, we parked (with ease) at the Polynesian, one of our favorite deluxe hotels thus far. It was a good excuse to tour an old favorite and visit Stitch before taking the monorail to our destination.
Grand Floridian is extravagant and old-fashioned and too fancy for Ross and I. Nevertheless, there are parts of it (like some of the architecture, and the orchestra) that I love. They host some very special holiday decorations. Last Easter we visited the incredible Easter egg decorations their chefs had made. This time I had to see the gingerbread. They also carry a variety of gluten-free treats (most made fresh), but all except for one had run out by the time I got there.
After GF, Ross needed a break from the crowds, so instead of taking the monorail (and going through security a second time), we followed the walking path to the Polynesian. It’s a nice walk along the water mostly, so we enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure if Ross would be too tired to continue, but he eagerly put the Boardwalk area into his GPS. First stop: Beach Club!
I have passed the outside of Beach Club many times. It has the most epic pool and bar area, with a giant pirate ship and a sandy bottom, all shared with Yacht Club, and it has a beautiful beach.
When we walked into the lobby, I was pleased by the decorations. Not a ton of character, but they looked really pretty. And I enjoyed the carousel gingerbread display a lot! The smell was really delicious too.
Next up was Yacht Club. It reminded me of my grandfather. I’m sure my mom’s parents would have loved vacationing here, with the nautical influences, proximity to Epcot and the Boardwalk and even a miniature village and train for the holidays.
Our final destination was Boardwalk Inn. They had a fun gingerbread display that recreates many of the shops at Disney’s Boardwalk. They also had some treats for sale.
The Boardwalk Inn feels a bit like a less fancy version of Grand Floridian. It’s pretty, but in a fairly non-descript way, and it feels too fancy for me. But the reality is I’d love to stay at any of the Boardwalk resorts. You can’t beat walking distance to Epcot (and Hollywood Studios and Boardwalk as a bonus) in my book!
After our final stop, we walked the Boardwalk and visited the beach, where Ross recorded a video for Instagram. Then we made our way back to the car.
I loved our resort tour and I’m so thrilled we were able to fit so much in. Next time, Wilderness Lodge is a priority, and I want to see Fort Wilderness and Pop Century lit up too.
And of course we skipped Animal Kingdom Lodge, our absolute favorite. But that’s because we are visiting there on Christmas!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Peace, Joy and a Happy New Year to you all from Ross and Jamie. Wishing you a wonderful 2018.
We’ve been staying in the Orlando area for almost two months now, and in settling down for a while, there are a lot of perks. We’re enjoying full hookups and access to high-speed internet (we never thought we’d be so thankful to have Comcast), and we’ve been befriending a lot of cats, including one who has adopted us that we’ve nicknamed Squeak due to her adorable squeak instead of a meow.
We’ve gotten tons of Disney parks time in, seeing the Halloween decorations in the Magic Kingdom, enjoying the Food and Wine Festival and experiencing the holiday magic throughout the parks. Probably the biggest highlight was our gift from Ross’ parents – dinner at San Angel Inn, Mexico at Epcot followed by a reserved seat for the Candlelight Processional with Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel, the Little Mermaid) as the narrator.
Jamie has also auditioned twice for roles at Disney – once for Finding Nemo: The Musical and once to be an improv performer. No luck thus far, but it doesn’t hurt to try! The absolute dream would be a role as a musical director or performance coach, but we hope this gets me noticed at least.
We’ve also done a wee bit of performing (an open mic here, a few church services) and have been booking future gigs like our lives depend on it – which they kind of do! And we’ve got a new website up for teaching online music lessons! New students can save big with our “holiday special” if you book before the end of December.
We’re also enjoying the opportunity to visit with family and friends. So far we got to see our friend and performer Judy Pancoast and we’ll be seeing Ross’ sister Emily and her husband Ryan for Christmas. We also plan to visit with some of our friends from the Outer Banks while they’re in town early next year, and we’ll be reaching out to my grandparents and aunt for a visit soon too. And there’s the chance for other family and friends visiting in early 2018 too! So all of that is really wonderful. If you’ll be in town by the end of February, please let us know!
I’ve been loving being a paid blogger for Outdoorsy, and my most recent article documents why I think ice cream should be a popular RV and road trip activity. In a similar vein, an opportunity to apply to manage the social media for Cancun.com has taken the world by storm, and it sounds so perfect for Ross and I (as a team) that we have applied for it. If you want to help us pay off our debts and spend six months living and working in Mexico, we’d greatly appreciate you voting for us here. No need to sign up for anything and voting is super easy – just click the button! And if you really want to help in an extra, above and beyond way, you can actually vote for us DAILY. Sharing our link and our story with your friends and family helps us get additional votes too!
Happy Hanukkah if you’re celebrating, and if you’re celebrating Christmas, we wish you a merry one. Lots of love and peace to all of you this holiday season, and thank you for your support and for following along on this journey with us!
As I lie here unable to fall back to sleep this Thanksgiving morning, I’m thankful. Thankful for friends and family who support us and are patient with us as we travel, follow our bliss and work to piece it all together. Thankful for the incredible opportunities and privileges we have that allow us to travel freely and relatively safely, and the resources and experience (and faith) to figure things out as we go along.
I’m thankful for all of the experiences we’ve had thus far, for the gigs and work and people we’ve seen. For those who’ve cleared their schedules and offered us a meal or a hug. Who’ve taken lessons from us and told people about our work.
We’re almost a year and a half since I ditched my full-time job. More than a year into fulltime RVing. And we’ve been together for almost eight years, 3.5 of them married. We’re so grateful to still be in love, happy and inspiring each other.
We’re thankful to be relatively healthy, both mentally and physically, and to have a fridge full of delicious food and the means to buy more too. We’re thankful to have work opportunities this winter, a great job lined up for April and the chance to fill the in between times with whatever work we choose.
We are incredibly blessed to have a wonderful home and a car to get around town and wherever we need to go. To have resources to fall back on when we need them. And to always have the ear of family and friends.
We love you and we thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.
It’s mid-August already. Can you believe it? We are in shock at how quickly the summer has flown by. But everything they say about time flying is pretty true, in our experience.
And there isn’t much we can do about that. But we can be deliberate with the time we have. Some people work extraordinarily hard to save so they can retire early. Or just retire someday. And we respect that. But since we haven’t found lucrative gigs that excite us and make us want to wake up every morning, our approach is to make the most of our time by seeking adventures and pursuing our passions to the fullest. It’s so hard. And we still have to do the boring stuff, like laundry and battling ants. But we’re incredibly blessed to be doing what we are doing, and we are thankful for it every day. So the adventure continues.
We’ve reached that time in the season where we are being asked to decide if we are coming back next summer. And boy, are we on the fence! This place is seriously amazing. Our bosses and co-workers are awesome (even with a few good friends no longer here) and these jobs offer us creativity, flexibility and fun in a way that basically can’t be beat.
But there are downsides to staying, of course. We’ve done the sight-seeing thing, so year 2 we won’t really have anything new to explore within an hour’s drive. Even more of our friends won’t be back, although we will meet new people of course. And while being on the beach is awesome, we still have lots of this country to see, and May – early September is a big time commitment.
So what is next, you might be wondering? Well, we head back to NH for 4-6 weeks or so this fall. We will visit doctors, hopefully get our RV looked at by our favorite RV mechanics, visit family and do some performing and teaching. After that, it’s back to the Orlando area for the winter. We will return to the same RV park as this winter – it’s cheap and has nice people, even if the maintenance/cleanliness is not ideal – and hope to return to part-time work while we build our business. Oh, and Disney. We’re excited to see what Halloween and Christmas and the Food and Wine Festival look like at Disney World, and since our annual passes are good through mid-February, we will plan to stay until then.
After that, we will see where the wind blows us! It could be the Outer Banks (in which case we would consider FL for another couple of months), or it could be New Mexico or Colorado, both high on our visit list. We’re currently reaching out to campgrounds and researching the cost of living in the places we’d like to land. And it seems likely that even if we return to the Outer Banks in 2018, we will be out west by the fall.
Adulting is hard. Planning is hard. And we are so blessed to be making these choices. Thanks for reading and supporting what we do! And if you haven’t found us on Facebook yet, check it out! Ross and I are performing live every week or so now, so follow our page for the updates.
Safe travels and have a wonderful day, wherever you are!
And sometimes they’re caused by construction companies.
For those of you who haven’t been seeing us in the national news, the islands in the Outer Banks that we are living and working on have been without power since Thursday thanks to an unfortunate construction mistake. Our campground has been running on generators ever since, and the KOA next door had to close due to sewage issues when the outage happened. Meanwhile an evacuation order was issued, but those currently on the island (even short-term visitors) can stay if they’re self-sufficient like most campers are.
So we’ve been making due with a generator and the best staff and management we could ask for. There’s still a beautiful beach, which we took advantage of until the ocean ate Ross’ glasses. But we will be back there and taking it easy while working to stay cool at a much emptier than usual campground.
Today’s plan was to handwash our clothes, but the limited power that came back yesterday is enough to power our washers and dryers, so I am thanking the powers that be for modern technology!
I’m sure when all of this is behind us, I will have more insight and tips for dealing with situations like this. But for now we’re just taking it one day at a time. (Photo is of the almost empty beach at 8 a.m.)
Note to future folks – in an emergency here, T-Mobile is apparently Talk and text only. Luckily Ross has Verizon and the campground has internet!
Do you have any power outage tips?
Happy Friday! I’m happy to report that we’ve passed the six month mark of our full-time RVing life change/adventure! When Ross and I agreed to do this, we promised each other we’d stick with it for a year and re-evaluate then. I’m happy to report that after six months we’re just as excited to be doing this and looking forward to year two this fall.
One of the amazing things about this lifestyle is the way it changes your sense of time. We had many conversations two and three months in where we realized it felt like we’d been doing this for months instead of years. After all, we’ve visited tons of states (20 I believe, with notable time in all but a couple of them), hanging out in nature, exploring museums and historical sights and trying to learn what living like a local would look like in cities and towns across our nation. It’s amazing what we’ve been able to see already, and we aren’t ready to stop, although our pace is slowing down currently to give us more time to make money along the way. As we celebrate this milestone, I wanted to talk about how this experience has differed from our expectations so far, and about some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Assumption: Life on the road will be full of adventures.
Reality: Yes, life on the road will be full of adventures. Some of them will be awesome and some of them will be frustrating, like when your house battery won’t stay charged or when the pilot for your fridge won’t light. Also, maintaining a balance between real life and playing tourist is harder than it looks!
Assumption: Once we have more time to ourselves, booking shows will get easier. (Not that we ever thought we’d be an easy sell!)
Reality: Free time helps, but the lack of great internet while we travel kind of balances this out. Booking shows has proven to be one of the hardest types of work we do on the road! That being said, it does get easier with practice and a routine.
Assumption: Finding part-time work when we settle in a place should be pretty easy, especially in a tourist area.
Reality: Most businesses don’t want temporary workers, so getting a gig isn’t as straightforward as we wanted and we can’t emphasize that we are nomads when we apply. (And this problem was much worse before we had a car! Limited businesses within walking distance narrows your options further.)
Assumption: Being on the road will be stressful, but the freedom will help make up for the new stress.
Reality: Overall, we are MUCH less stressed than we used to be. It’s gotten easier with time. Financial stress is real, but if you organize your time well, this lifestyle is usually a dream come true. And days when you have to work super-hard are easier knowing they’re financing this lifestyle. That being said, your anxiety and depression don’t go away because you hit the road! Make sure you have strong self-care habits, maintain your personal space and work to keep the lines of communication open with your partner.
Assumption: We’d have tons of free time to work on music projects and booking once we hit the road.
Reality: We have to work VERY hard to make time for this. Because we’re juggling so many income streams and responsibilities, the music making sometimes takes a far back seat. We’re working on making this a regular part of our schedule, but it’s something we are still working on.
Assumption: We probably wouldn’t be back to New Hampshire for another year or so.
Reality: I’ve gotten two gigs in New Hampshire since I left. So I flew back in December and in March for a few weeks. Who’d have thought I’d be offered higher-paying theater work once I moved out of the state?! (Ross, unfortunately, is waiting for New Hampshire to call with his gigs. We will be both be back this fall for a month to teach workshops and perform.)
Assumption: It will be harder to not have a regular community on the road.
Reality: We have made friends wherever we’ve gone. Although our social lives aren’t particularly exciting, we find people who care about us and share stories with us everywhere. It’s been pretty wonderful. We miss our friends and family, but we definitely feel welcome wherever we go. (It helps to be able-bodied, white, a male-female couple and relatively privileged. We know this and are constantly thankful that we can feel relatively safe and welcome wherever we go.)
As we look forward to the rest of this year, we are currently on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. (Report on Florida, Savannah and Charleston to come!) After Labor Day, we will visit New Hampshire and then head back to Florida if our plans stay on track. We will stay there through the winter and possibly spring.
Thanks for reading and following our journey!
Ross and I really loved our visit to Tucson. So much so that we kept extending it! Unfortunately we have been having persistent battery issues, so while we were there Ross installed a new battery for us. (That hasn’t fixed the problems, unfortunately, but that’s for another blog.) When we weren’t working or problem-solving, we found plenty of fun things to do in Tucson.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has been number one on my list to explore in Tucson since I began reading RV blogs. It’s very pricey – $20.50/person – but it includes an aquarium, phenomenal gardens, a zoo full of exhibits and special presentations, a butterfly place, a hummingbird place, cafes, a cave and much more. Since a year’s membership is only $80 and includes unlimited admission, free coffee or tea at every visit and more, I knew we should just get an annual pass so we would have multiple days to explore the wonderland.
I haven’t enjoyed a place that much since Disney World. I kid you not. Just ask Ross! He loved it too. I think I went at least 5 or 6 times – they have RV parking to make it even easier – and Ross went nearly as many. You drive through a park full of saguaro cactus to get there and Saguaro National Park is just past it – but I will be honest and say we had all the saguaros we needed at the museum. Ross even chose to spend his birthday at the museum – well, the afternoon anyway. (The morning was spent at Toys ‘R’ Us, where I surprised him by decorating the RV with Star Wars. See the feature photo.) But I digress; spending time at the museum was such a gift.
We visited a few other places in Tucson too. We performed at a local nursing home and a local church (St. Mark’s Presbyterian) while we were in town, and everyone couldn’t have been friendlier. In fact, the church told us we’d always have a home in Tucson, so sweet. We also visited a few stores in a neat part of downtown, including a local food co-op. And we spent an evening visiting a great bookstore and two ice cream places – unfortunately neither were up to our usual standards, but we enjoyed them nonetheless, and the second had coconut milk gluten-free ice cream so it was basically good for me. Right?
We really fell hard for Tucson. Although we imagine the heat would be too much in the summer months (after all, we saw temperatures in the 80s in December), we could definitely see ourselves here even if it became a popular vacation destination if we end up in the southwest. The music scene didn’t seem to be much of a “scene” to Ross, and left hand turns are awkward, but the people are so nice, the public transportation is great and it’s really an affordable, charming place from what we can tell.
Thanks Tucson – we will definitely be back!
Headed to Tucson this year? Let us know. We have a couple of passes to the Desert Museum to give away!
I had very specific goals for Thanksgiving this year, and my husband was kind enough to agree to accommodate me in making them happen. I’ve been following the Auto-Immune Protocol since July in an attempt to reverse some of my auto-immune symptoms, and because it is such a strict diet, partaking in Thanksgiving without making the meal myself wasn’t an option.
So when my friend Charlie offered to host us for Thanksgiving while we were in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But after much back and forth, it was clear this would work for us. Three nights camped in their driveway with electric hookups and showers; a chance to cook my own menu (with assistance on turkey, sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts); and the chance to socialize a bit with friends. Their home in Plano, right next to Dallas, is gorgeous and in a lovely neighborhood, and it was a great place to spend a few days. (I will be sharing the full details on my menu successes and surprises here.) They have a wonderful group of friends and neighbors that we enjoyed spending time with.
While we were in Plano, I attended a screen acting class, which was fun. I also took some nice walks and picked up a rental car, courtesy of our insurance company. And I loved having a full kitchen to spread out in and cook.
So far the Dallas area has beautiful weather – we ate outside on Thanksgiving – but it isn’t a very attractive city. Our campground is more than a half hour away though, on a lake, and it really couldn’t be more beautiful.
We plan to visit downtown Fort Worth today and we might explore in the coming days as well depending on how inspired we are. We’re feeling thankful for this beautiful campground and for friends and family, and we are using this time to regroup and plan what’s next.
My theater company in NH is performing before Christmas, so I have lots of prep work to do for that, and Ross has work to do to prepare for his gigs as well. So we will need to leave time for work as well as play.
Thanks for reading! I will share more photos and stories in the coming days. Hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving.