Top 10 Tips for Finding an Awesome Kissimmee Vacation Rental

When Charles and I first started our travels, we lived the typical backpacker's lifestyle, staying in hostels and eating out every night. Now that we're a family of four on the road for months at a time, we find we need more space and privacy. As a family, we use vacation home rentals whenever we stay somewhere for more than a night or two. They're cheaper than hotels, and have a ton of space and amenities (and personality!) that hotels don't offer. We've rented vacation homes with gourmet kitchens, amazing swimming pools, and top quality linens at far less than half the cost of a hotel. During our side trip to Disney World, we decided to stay in Kissimmee, Florida. Kissimmee's a short 20 minute drive to the Disney World resort, and offers a big variety of homes for rent. We thought a Kissimmee vacation rental would give us some peace and quiet, but be close enough to Disney World to make it an easy drive. We splurged a bit for an awesome four bed, three bath townhouse in Kissimmee's Club Cortile with all the bells and whistles (pool, tennis courts, movie theatre, high speed internet) for $590 for six nights, including all taxes and cleaning fees.
Micki vs Stand Up Paddle Boarding Kailua SUP

Micki vs Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Kailua Beach, Hawaii

Every once in a while I get it into my head that I'm an adventure sports person. This is kind of the equivalent of Elmo entering a mixed martial arts cage match. Possible? Maybe. Wise? Probably not. I love all the so-called adventure sports: kayaking, snowboarding, rappelling, windsurfing, scuba, and so on. It's a one-sided relationship. I love them, they kick my a**. In the last few years, we’ve seen paddle boarders of all shapes and sizes on almost any body of water we visit. It looks fun, serene, and above all, fairly easy. Charles and I decided to lose our stand up paddle boarding (SUP) virginity in Hawaii. Given that stand up paddling (Hoe he’e nalu in the Hawaiian language) originated in Hawaii, Oahu seemed like a great place to start. The theory is simple: You stand upright on a specially designed paddle board (a very stable, modified surfboard) and use your paddle to...
Shoulder Season on Long Beach Ko Phi Phi Thailand

What Is Shoulder Season? Why Shoulder Season Travel Rocks My World

I'm in love with shoulder season travel. I'm talking heart going pitter-patter, light-headed, happy just at the thought of it, in love.

Before I get ahead of myself, you're saying just answer the question, woman, why don't you:  What is shoulder season?

Shoulder season is not off season or low season. Shoulder season falls between high season (Christmas and New Year in most of the world) and low or off season.

What are the best parts of traveling shoulder season?

  • it's cheaper than high season, and you have better luck negotiating prices
  • crowds are thinner
  • prices are lower than high season
  • attractions and restaurants are still open
  • weather is usually good (though you usually run a higher risk of bad weather than high season)
  • lots of daylight hours
  • locals can be more relaxed and friendly, as the influx of tourists has eased

Should I Visit Tamarindo Costa Rica?

Tamarindo is just one of those towns: You love it or hate it. Noone seems to be ambivalent about Tamarindo. Me? I loved and hated Tamarindo.

The Good

Tamarindo's amazing beach to seems to go on forever

Great waves, perfect for surfing, boogie boarding, or just chilling by the sand. At high tide, the waves are way too big and powerful for little kids and weak swimmers. At low tide, waves are smaller, and a bit more manageable for the little ones, if you keep an eye on them.

A foodie's dream beach town. Tamarindo has a great selection of fantastic restaurants (though a bit expensive), but there are a few budget options.

Friendly folks and a laid back vibe.

Money Belt or Neck Wallet? Reviews and Alternatives to Keep Your Stuff Safe When Traveling

Money Belt or Neck Wallet? Reviews and Alternatives to Keep Your Stuff Safe When Traveling

What's the best way to keep your credit cards, cash and passport safe when you travel? The default is usually a money belt or fanny pack that you wear around your waist, and can tuck away under your clothes. But there are much better options out there for keeping your stuff safe, like neck wallets. This review looks at money belts, neck wallets, leg and wrist wallets, belt wallets, bras and clothes with hidden pockets.
Orangutan in Bukit Lawang Indonesia

Travel Photo: Orangutan at Bukit Lawang Indonesia

The Bohorok Orangutan Centre at Bukit Lawang in Indonesia is one of the only places in the world where you can see orangutans in the wild.

Half a dozen orangutans were swinging in the trees around us when we snapped this photo. The rangers were feeding some of the orangutans on a feeding platorm a few feet away.

Bukit Lawang is a small village deep in Sumatra's forest, packed with backpacker hostels and cafes. To get there, we took a ferry from Penang, Malaysia to Medan, Indonesia, and jumped on board a mini-bus to Bukittinggi. From Bukittinggi, we took a local bus on roads with potholes deep enough to lose a car.

Mango Condo Tamarindo

Pura Vida at Mango Condos Tamarindo

We stayed at Mango Condos for a month during our stay in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Overall, Mango was one of the cheaper Tamarindo condos we looked at renting. We were quite happy with the value that we got for the price, despite a couple of minor problems.

Price. We negotiated with the ever-patient owner, Julius, and got our two bed, one bath unit at Mango condo for a month, starting in mid-January, for $1,200 USD. When we went, the Tamarindo economy was still in a bit of a funk, but prices were starting to pick up again, so you might pay more.

Security. The condos have a secure, locked front entrance, with separate keys for each condo. There are three levels, with condos facing either the dusty front street or the big leafy trees in back. A troupe of howler monkeys traveled through trees in the back a couple of times, making for some great wildlife watching out back. Because the condo is about a three minute walk from the beach, none of the condos have ocean views.

Pool. The pool is nice but small, with a small kiddie pool and an attractive fountain. It's great for a quick plunge, but not really big enough to hang out at all day. It's in the center of a small courtyard, and out of the sun most of the day. The cafe tables by the courtyard are a great place to read the local paper or enjoy a drink...