Photo of the Week: A Buckeye Autumn

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I don’t know about you, but I love the fall season. Crisp temperatures, bright sunshine and vibrant leaves fill your days. On my day off this past Friday, I took an impromptu drive through the Cleveland Metroparks with my camera. I stumbled upon this amazing place, Wallace Lake. Trekking down a little slope, I found myself staring at this view. Now, I’m not a big nature person. I’ll admit, I love the comfort of my home. But I hung out here for a bit and took in how awesomely beautiful nature really is.

London, England: Harry Potter Tours

Hogwarts

Hogwarts

I think from previous posts it’s pretty clear that I love Harry Potter. I am a fanatic. It should come as no surprise that part of the allure of London is going on Harry Potter tours. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter is one the comes to mind. As I start to plan a trip to London, this is where I start my voyage.

From the research I have done, this is any Harry Potter fan’s dream come true. Leavesden was the home of the Harry Potter movies for 10 years. After the films wrapped, all the sets and props were left onsite. So what do you do? You set up a tour. Genius! But what are some of the things I would do given the opportunity to go?

1. Ride a broomstick. Yes, you heard me right. Muggles can sit on a broom in front of a green screen and take flight like the cast did. Want to remember it forever? You can purchase a photograph or DVD of your broom riding experience.

2. See the Great Hall. This is an iconic part of the film. All four houses gather here and the war in the last book has a large presence here. Really I would love to have a meal in the Great Hall and sit at the Gryffindor table. Do they allow this?

3. Walk Diagon Alley. I’ve visited Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando, but walking through the set of the real Diagon Alley would be something special.

There is another tour that caught my attention: Muggle Tours. This seems like a fun group of Potter Heads that take you to unique places that are seen in the film. Like where, you ask? The tour highlights include:

  • The entrance to the Leaky Cauldron
  • Several locations over which Lord Voldemort’s death eater wreak havoc
  • No. 12 Grimmauld Place
  • The location where the Triple Decker Knight Bus squeezes through two London buses

If you’ve never been on the website Trippy, go and sign up! It’s a place to get peer-to-peer information on travel. Ask questions. Give answers. It’s a GREAT community. I asked about HP tours in London and got an awesome answer.

I also stumbled upon this Buzzfeed article: The Super Fan’s Guide to Harry Potter’s London

The possibilities are endless when it comes to Harry Potter! These tours are on my bucket list plan for London. Do you have any other advice for HP fans visiting London? Share in the comments below or on Twitter @tripintotravel.

My 2015 Bucket List

As I look at my ever growing bucket list, I think it’s time to set some attainable goals on what I can do in 2015. When I say “attainable”, what I really mean is best case scenario. It’s time to make stuff happen!

United States

1. San Francisco, California
2. Nashville, Tennessee
3. Austin, Texas

United Kingdom

1. London, England

For me, this is a tall order to complete. I may not get to do all of these in 2015. But, I will do planning for all of these next year.

Share your advice with me about visiting these places! I have heard nothing but amazing things,  but would love to hear specifics about what you think I should do, when I should go and for how long I should visit.

What to do in Kennebunk, Maine

Kennebunk is a beautiful town in Maine. Small and quaint, there is still so much to do in Kennebunk and the surrounding towns. Here’s my go-to guide about what to do when you’re visiting Kennebunk!

1. Town of Kennebunk: There is an all-day breakfast joint, fittingly called, All Day Breakfast. The food is delicious and fairly priced. Who doesn’t want to eat breakfast food at all times of the day? For dinner, hit up Sebago Brewing Company. Of course, you should visit the beaches, which I wrote about earlier.

2. Kennebunkport: Locals and tourists alike will line the streets of the Port to enjoy the scenic atmosphere of a true New England town. There are specialty shops that line the streets and draw you in. I wrote about my favorite shops in a separate post. The prices are high, like in any tourist town. But window shopping is worth the walk.

3. Wells: If you’re looking for some family fun, drive on over to Wells. Start the day off with some mini golf at Wonder Mountain Fun Park. If it’s raining, you can hit the local movie theater. Grab a snack at Big Daddy’s Ice Cream. It’s a popular joint each night, so be prepared for the lack of seating at peak hours.

4. Kittery: Need to shop at some shops you know and love? Hit up the Premium Outlet Mall in Kittery. This outlet mall spans down a road, so you’ll have to drive from strip to strip. If you can find a good deal, it’s worth it!

5. Saco: If you enjoy people watching and want to get in the thick of the tourist activity, go to Old Orchard Beach in Saco. There is a small, beachfront park, Palace Playland, that reminds me of a hometown fair. One gem that I found in Saco was Bay View Beach. It was a clean beach that was not crowded.

As you can see, there is a lot to do when visiting Maine. You can fill your days with fun activities and enjoy the beautiful scenery while you’re exploring. Have I convinced you to plan a trip to Kennebunk?

Photo of the Week: Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney

When traveling for work last week, I took the opportunity to go to one of my favorite places in Orlando — Downtown Disney. Here you’ll find restaurants, Disney shops, lego sculptures and more. Want nightlife? Go to the entertainment side of the complex. Catch a movie, see live music at the House of Blues, or immerse yourself in La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil. Visiting with the family? Go to DisneyQuest or stop by DJ Kids Dance Party at the Waterside Stage. No matter your age, there is something for you to do at Downtown Disney.

My favorite part about travel

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When you decide to go on a trip, what do you base your decision on? I know I take into account the landmarks I want to see, the climate at the time of the trip, the safety of the location and activities you can take part in. You go to these different locations and you have the amazing opportunity to do all the things that you plan. You get to experience other cultures and try new, exciting things. Out of all that, how do you choose a favorite part?

Well, I’d have to say that the things listed above are not my favorite part about traveling. Why, you ask? After attending a conference this week, I realized that my favorite part of traveling are the people you get to meet. These people share their stories with you and you get to learn from them. I had the opportunity to meet a number of awesome people at this conference and am forever thankful for that.

Just think — If you were to go on a trip and no one was around, how would your experience be different? People make a huge difference in your experiences whether or not you realize it at the time.

Think back to some of your favorite trips. Sure, the Colosseum left a huge impression on me all on its own. But I was also able to experience it with two of my closest friends and share my excitement with people who matter to me.

When you go on your solo trips, do you really hang out alone 100% of the time? No. You meet new people along the way and make lifelong friends. These people are the ones you share some of your fondest memories with. How could we ever discount that? I don’t think we can take the people we meet along the way for granted.

I know putting yourself out there can be intimidating and, at times, scary. But my advice to you is to open yourself up to others around you. Be welcoming and engage. People were meant to interact! So many of us spend our time buried in our smart phones and tablets. Look up, make eye contact and exchange a smile. You never know who you will meet and what you will learn from them.

Hotel Review: Gaylord Palms

Gaylord Palms

I recently stayed at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Florida for a work conference. I was there Monday through Friday, so I feel that’s a good amount of time to give the hotel a review. Here goes nothing!

The location

You’re located right off the main highway, so you’ll be in a good location staying here. If you wanted to visit Universal Studios Orlando, you’re about 20 minutes away. You’re also about 20 minutes or so away from Disney.

Warning: You will pay for parking at this resort!

The staff and hospitality

When we arrived at the hotel, there was a massive line of people waiting to check in. My company came in bus loads so this was to be expected. The reception desk was well staffed and the line moved quickly and smoothly. It was a great way to be welcomed to the hotel.

The room

Because this is a luxury hotel, I was expecting the rooms to be a little special. I was underwhelmed when I walked into the room because it was very standard and there was not a lot of space. The pillows were small and quite uncomfortable. The bed, however, was one of the best hotel beds I’ve slept on.

The vanity outside the bathroom had a nice set up with double sinks. The placement of the vanity with the bathroom door was very awkward. If my roommate was getting ready by the vanity, it was a squeeze opening the door to go into the actual bathroom to take a shower. They could have definitely improved the layout.

The atmosphere

This was probably my favorite aspect of the hotel. Each wing of hotel rooms represents a different part of Florida. I was staying in Key West. The main atrium, located in the center of all the wings, is a lush garden of trees. And the trees are real! It brings the atrium alive. When you’re stuck inside for a conference all day, this atrium is a welcome view every day.

My favorite part of the atrium is the water area that includes little alligators and turtles. They coexist! I love that they are all friends that hang out on the same rock.

I consider restaurants falling under atmosphere. The bar in the Gaylord Palms is Wrecker’s. It’s a sports bar theme and, when there is an event going on at the hotel’s convention center, that place is packed. It’s filled with fun people and good food. It’s your typical bar food menu but, don’t worry, the taste is up to par.

The convention center

If you’re going for a conference, you won’t be disappointed. You don’t have to take a cab ride to and from your hotel and conference. Take the elevator, walk through the atrium and you’re in the conference center. All you need is on three levels.

The only negative I have is that you don’t get out much. Because everything is in one place, you don’t see much sunlight. Take the time to at least go outside for some walks!

Closing thoughts

I would recommend that you stay at the Gaylord Palms when visiting Kissimmee. It is a luxury hotel, so be prepared to pay a pretty price tag. In case you don’t know, this is a Marriott hotel. If you’re a rewards member, don’t forget to add your number to your room! You will get many, many points that will result in free stays.