Visiting Santorini, a Beautiful Mess

Santorini is one of Greece’s most famous islands. A photographers paradise, one could say. But tourism is destroying what makes this place so magical.

Let’s face it, if you are into travel, following any blogs or social accounts, have planned or just love getting away, you have likely heard of Greece’s iconic island, Santorini. If you haven’t, then you would have at least seen this photo and said to your self, “ah, that shot again.”

Famous blue domes over Santorini’s, Oia

The famous blue domes of the church in the city of Oia (pronounced ee-ya). It’s an image that is all over Greece’s tourism marketing and on every traveller Instagram page, somewhere.

Following our visit to Athens (our story here), we arrived in Santorini just at the end of shoulder season, the start of peak season, which hits its climax in August. The weather was hot, but as an Aussie, bearable. Any warmer, which it apparently can get, and it may have been a little uncomfortable.

Social platforms have changed the way we travel, and places like the Greek islands have felt this impact.

Santorini is an incredibly beautiful place and in all honesty, for once, the photos you see live up to the visual expectation of the island. From the stunning and iconic blue and white buildings to the clear waters, the island is picturesque.

Santorini, seating over the roof tops

Taking a step back, though; beneath its white luxury is a growing mess.

Twenty years ago, Santorini was known by few people and even fewer as a travel destination. Then along came social platforms, like the modern Instagram, and within what felt like a minute, turned Santorini into one of Greece’s most prominent destinations.

Quickly tourists by the boatload poured in from ships and planes to see the white city, and overnight it went from a home to Greek locals, to a tourist haven. Only a couple of thousand locals live here, compared to the 10,000 – 15,000 that can rock up daily.

Up went luxury hotels, new roads, shops and restaurants by the dozen, and more and more tourists role in.

Walking the streets of Oia, you cannot move without bumping shoulders with a fellow tourist. Lines form around corners to get photos of iconic viewpoints, and to watch the sunset you need to arrive at locations an hour or more ahead just get a spot.

They have sadly become “Tourist pushers.”

This is where the problem lies. Tourism has taken over the island and it’s slowly becoming unsustainable. The ecosystem is deteriorating bit by bit. With so many people coming in; rubbish is piling up (although unseen), and the biowaste is wreaking havoc on the surrounding environment.

Hike through the dry cliffs around Santorini

Then you have what makes Santorini so unique, tarnished by overcrowding. With so many people, it becomes a battleground, rather than a place to get away and relax. Any form of process for transportation is non-existent, and what is available, can’t handle the volume of passengers.

Lastly, is the culture of the people who live there. They have sadly become “Tourist pushers.” (If you have visited places like Morocco, you’ll know what this means). Shop owners wanting every dollar they can get by charging high prices for things as simple as bread. This removes any genuine interaction you have with a local, as their honesty becomes a chase for extra cash out of your pocket.

So what can be done about it?

I get it, in fact, a lot of people I have met get it. It’s short term thinking for a country that is going through hard times. Pump in the tourists, and we get more. But what about the long term?

The real solution and long term benefit will come with the right policies and infrastructure in place to control volumes of tourists. Not only does this make the experience more pleasurable, but makes their tourism operations more sustainable; minimising the impact on the environment, their culture and holding onto to what makes Santorini so beautiful.

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Our 6 Must-do Activities Visiting Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker is a tiny slice of paradise found in the caribbean sea where ‘no problem’ isn’t just a popular phrase but a way of life. On this chilled out island there is a wealth of activities to explore and we’ve picked out our 6 favourite.

Caye Caulker, the small island off the coast of Belize is a tiny slice of laid back paradise. As the locals like to advertise, it’s a “no shirt, no shoes, no problem” kinda island.

While it is the second largest of the Belizean Cayes, it feels a world away from any large overdeveloped town or hot spot. The island vibe is strong here, with no cars on the island and walking or golf buggies the preferred mode of transport. The only traffic sign directive is “go slow” and this perfectly sums up how you should be holidaying here.

Go slow and keep moving on the beach of Caye Caulker, Belize.
Go slow, but keep moving, on the beach of Caye Caulker

When we arrived here, we instantly fell in love. The weather is warm and sunny on this barefoot paradise, most hotels and hostels front the main street which runs along the coast of the island, and everything is within an easy walking distance. The locals are friendly and the definition of chilled, and as a bonus, everything is in English! Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language, so no need to pull out the rusty Espanol.

One of the best parts of the sailing tour was trying our hand at fishing.

There are also many minimarts on the island (strangely all but one are owned by Asian families!), however there are equally a good number of local eateries to choose from, from street food stands through to higher-end establishments.

We spent five days in Caye Caulker which was enough time to see most things, but it’s very easy to spend a week or more here given how beautiful and effortless life is 🙂

If you’re planning a getaway to Caye Caulker, here are 6 must-do things:

1) Book a sailing tour for snorkeling and a visit to Shark and Ray Alley

Book a sailing tour which includes snorkelling at Shark & Ray Alley.

We opted for a 2 day / 1 night sailing tour, and it was a lot of fun. The island is dotted with many tour operators so you can take your pick, but a sailing cruise with snorkelling included (and unlimited rum punch) is a fun way to see the coast, more of the surrounding islands, and basically relax.

Our boat accommodated 7 people so if you’re in a large group you could feasibly book out a whole boat to yourself. Almost all sailing tours will include a stop at shark and ray alley, but double-check to make sure as this is one you don’t want to miss. Fisherman historically came to this area to clean out their boats and catches, which in turn attracted all the local rays and reef sharks. So much so that now when any boats appear, they swarm underneath in great numbers!!

Shark and Ray Alley, Caye Caulker

Note: On the day we went, the currents were ridiculously strong, so be wary of that as you go snorkelling! Take fins and make sure you check where you are relative to the boat often, or you may find yourself having drifted quite far with an exhausting swim back.

2) Go fishing and cook your spoils at the local restaurant

One of the best parts of the sailing tour was trying our hand at fishing, with one of our friends successful in catching a marlin. The fish caught were served up for dinner that night but were also given to us to take back to Caye Caulker and cook up ourselves. Our captain recommended Enjoy Restaurant where for BZD$10 they’ll grill your fish and serve it up with a side of rice and veggies. It was one of the best fish we’ve ever had – the grill they use infuses the fish with amazing flavours, and there’s nothing quite like eating something you’ve caught yourself!

3) Go for a beach massage with Javier

Javier is a local providing massages by the beach for a very reasonable BZD$50 for one hour, or BZD$80 for two people for one hour each if you’re a couple! He’s located 100 metres down from the spit sign here and has a variety of methods on offer (from Swedish to aromatherapy, sports, etc). You are sheltered somewhat from the winds in his makeshift beach hut, but Javier honestly has the most amazing technique. Read his reviews, he’s fantastic, and a must-see if you’re in need for some pampering!

Rent a buggy and drive around the island of Caye Caulker
Drive a golf buggy around Caye Caulker

4) Get a fry jack for breakfast

Erolyns House of Fryjacks serve up some delicious fry jacks every morning from 6:30am. Fry jacks are essentially a deep-fried folded bread with stuffings in every combination possible using beans, cheese, chicken, ham, or bacon. All you need to know is they are delicious, cheap (BZD$3-7 depending on your filling choice), and taste even better with the local Marie Sharpe hot sauce on offer. Just try one, you won’t regret it.

5) Go for a yoga class at randOM Yoga

Go for a yoga class at randOM Yoga (on top of Namaste Cafe).

This yoga class is held on an open-top floor space and run by Jessie, a local Belizean. It’s a by-donation class meaning you pay what you feel it’s worth. Mats, straps and blocks are provided and if you are interested check the timetable on the board outside the Namaste Cafe (as it can vary based on her availability).

Also, remember to go at least 5-10 minutes early as spots fill up quick! While Jessie is very good at Tetrising everyone in, unfortunately, if the numbers are simply too many, she does have to turn people away.

6) Spend a day kicking back at Koko King

Koko King is a beautiful beach resort on the northern island of Caye Caulker. What was once all one island, thanks to a few large hurricanes, has now split it into two with Koko King on the north island and only accessible by a regular and free* boat. You can see the island across from The Split (however don’t think you can swim it!) and it’s a quick 2-4 minute boat ride away.

Koko King houses the upscale Weyu hotel, but is also open to the public for use of their beach and amenities (though note the hotel pool is the only out of bounds area).

In my opinion it is nicer than the split and is a great place to relax for a day, particularly if you rent a cabana bed! There are 3-4 cabana beds on the beach you can rent for the day at BZD$50 which is not too expensive when split with friends, however if you are keen for one I recommend going early (by 10:30am) as these go very quickly! If not, there are some beach chairs provided for free

At Koko King, there is also a decent restaurant with food and drinks (not cheap but not ridiculously priced either) as well as rubbers tyres you can float on for free and a water volleyball net if you’re keen! It’s shallow enough anyone can play, and we teamed up with another group for a fun, friendly match.

To get across, you can catch the boat provided by Koko King that runs every 30 minutes. The cost is BZD$25 or free if you spend the equivalent amount at their restaurant (which if you’re going for a few hours or over lunch is very easy to do). Note any money paid for a cabana bed also allows you to meet the minimum spend for 2 people! Just make sure you collect a wristband from the bar to prove you’ve met the spend when you leave.

Getting to Caye Caulker:

The two main ways of getting to Caye Caulker: a ferry from Belize City or a ferry from Chetumal.

Ferries from Belize City take about 45 minutes and operate up to 12 times daily with two operators; Belize Express Water Taxi or Ocean Ferry Belize.

Ferries from Chetumal take about 3.5 hours stopping first in San Pedro to complete immigration, then Continuing on to Caye Caulker. The cost is just over USD$50+and from Chetumal you’ll need to check the departure times as there are generally only 2 per day.

If you are travelling down from Mexico into Belize, another option is to catch a bus from Bacalar to Belize City between 8am – 9am (depending on your hotel location) and then the 1.30pm ferry across to Caye Caulker which sees you to the island by 2.30pm. You can easily organise this transfer via Marlin Espalda for US$40 per person which includes a small simple breakfast (think cereal/toast/tea and coffee) and a return ferry ticket to Belize City. We used them in April 2019 with no problems; they explained how to cross the border from Mexico to Belize and talked us through all the required immigration forms and process.

Where to stay in Caye Caulker:

Anywhere you stay on the island, you’ll be able to walk to the other end. It’s pretty small! Staying somewhere on the main road or just off it would be our recommendation as you’re closest to the action.

We stayed at Hotel Enjoy (which sits close to the ferry port, Errolyn’s fryjacks and opposite Namaste cafe) and had good wifi which is difficult to find in Belize. We have also stayed at De Real McCaw Hotel which is a good budget no-frills accommodation. On the main road closer to the Spit, it faces the beach too with cute porches out the front of every room.

Use coupon code 76983920 if booking via booking.com to get 10% back off your accommodation bill!

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7 Tips & Tricks for Visiting the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave of Belize

You feel like Tomb Raider hiking out and exploring the ATM caves in Belize. Here are 7 tips to prepare you for this adventure.

Walking deep into a cave is not always for the faint-hearted. I wouldn’t say I’m the claustrophobic type, closing a door to a small dark room won’t make me squeal, but squeezing down narrow shafts of a cave definitely gets the heart racing.

Regardless of any fear the mind may have for narrow dark spaces, boy was visiting the ATM cave of Belize was a blast.

A brief history of Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM)

Discovered in 1989 and also known as the Cave of the Crystal Maiden, the cave was used by the Mayans in the late classic period in a desperate plea to their gods to help flourish the lands with crops. Mayans were, as you know, an incredible civilisation, and while their end inevitably came from the arrival of the Spaniards, their downfall began a lot earlier. Although there are many mixed opinions on the matter, what was known as their farming capability was nothing short of destructive and conducive to their famine. Rather than refurbish and reuse farmland, they would burn it, and move on to the next patch. Mixed with drying wells, and bad weather, they soon were in danger of starvation.

Regardless of their technology, advanced mathematics and knowledge of the sky, to help with their famine, they turned to their gods.

Mayans believed in the supernatural, which included heaven and the underworld, both with many levels and deities. In this instance, praying underground, meant praying to the gods of the earth to refurbish the land. This is where the cave came in. It was a direct path to give a sacrifice of human life to please their gods.

Travelling deep into the cave

The tour is quite the adventure, and you get a fun Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones vibe as you’re walking through the jungle, swimming through lakes and caves, and squeezing through narrow paths to find the hidden tomb.

The guide enriches the experience with deep knowledge on the history of the Mayans and the region.

Reaching the final room is incredibly rewarding and I still can’t fathom some of the bones, pots and natural cave formations left behind over 1,000 years ago. I don’t want to spoil the setting, you genuinely need to experience it.

You get a fun Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones vibe.

But the Crystal Maiden is the final site. An almost perfectly preserved set of bones of an 18-year-old girl who had been sacrificed during this period. A reminder of some of the torment Mayans had endured, and their desperation to save their people from the coming famine.

Tips for visiting the ATM cave, Belize

If you are planning a trip here (which you should!) here are 7 tips, tricks and things to know before your visit to the ATM cave:

1) Bring reef shoes

Your feet with being submerged in water for much of the tour, so it’s best to bring reef shoes to wear as they dry quickly and won’t get smelly! Although preferable, you don’t need hard toe reef shoes – completely soft ones are okay and accepted by the tour companies. Ideally, if you are travelling down the east coast of Mexico, get them in Playa Del Carmen as it houses the most shops, offering greater choice (cost is anywhere from $10 – $20USD)

2) Bring socks

There is the dry cavern where you will be required to take off your shoes to enter and walk through. As such you’ll want socks on as the ground has many small sharp rocks!

3) Don’t wear a long sleeve shirt

While it seems like a good idea at first, particularly if you’re prone to getting cold, you do visit the dry cavern for quite an extended portion of the tour and you’ll be standing in damp clothes for a long time. As such, it actually makes you colder since you’re wearing more wet clothing, and don’t worry, the cavern air is relatively warm, so you don’t freeze!

4) Do you really need a life jacket?

If you’re a competent swimmer, you don’t really need a life jacket unless perhaps it’s the wet season!

During our visit in early April 2019 (the end of the dry season), the water levels were relatively low, so there were only 2 sections during which I had to swim as my feet could not touch the bottom (I’m 1.7m tall). This was at the very entrance to the cave for about 10m and after about 10 minutes into the cave.

Being said, our guide explained that during the wet season the water levels in the cave can rise by almost 50-60cm, in which case there would be significantly more spots on the tour where swimming would be necessary. Of course, if you are not a confident swimmer, or want the added warmth, then a life jacket is for you!

Also if you are looking to go in September/October, be mindful it is hurricane season and if water levels rise too much, the ATM cave is closed to tourists for safety reasons.

5) Get on the bus early

Being the first group in the cave is magical as the waters are clear (as groups traipsing through haven’t yet stirred up sediment) and with the quiet, it feels like you have the caves all to yourself. We were lucky enough to be the 1st group through for the day. As we were leaving, because you exit the same way you enter, we often ran into groups who had only just begun and were then forced to stop at multiple points to let exiting groups pass. As always, the early bird catches the worm!

6) No cameras of video devices!

You can’t bring cameras or video recording devices into ATM cave. Period.

Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events with tourists in the past have lead to this ban on all devices in the cave. The upside though is you don’t need to worry about dry bags, fiddling with cameras, and your attention is 100% focused on taking in the moment 😊. You do receive photos at the end of the trip, but they are pre-taken photos of the cave by the tour agency – there is no tour guide following you with a camera and taking pictures of your group!

7) The tour and hike is not dificult

The tour does require some climbing up rocks and minimal parts of swimming (approx. 10m – 15m), but you don’t need to be a gym junkie to do this. The hardest parts are swimming into the entrance of the cave, climbing up a short ladder and a rock boulder to get to the dry cavern and probably squeezing through some tight spaces.

You don’t have to be Indiana Jones or Lara Croft to do this tour.

All of this, however, is very much doable, and the tour guides guide you through every step, foothold and movement along the way.

Date visited: 16 April 2019.
Tour agency: MayaWalk Tours. We decided on these guys as they were one of the most and highest rated tour operators on TripAdvisor and departed at 7am from their office in San Ignacio.
The price paid: USD85 per person. We were initially quoted USD$95 but received a discount after requesting one for a group of 5 people.

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7 TIPS FOR VISITING THE ACTUN TUNICHIL MUKNAL (ATM) CAVE OF BELIZE

You feel like Tomb Raider hiking out and exploring the ATM caves in Belize. Here are 7 tips to prepare you for this adventure.

Walking deep into a cave is not always for the faint-hearted. I wouldn’t say I’m the claustrophobic type, closing a door to a small dark room won’t make me squeal, but squeezing down narrow shafts of a cave definitely gets the heart racing.

Regardless of any fear the mind may have for narrow dark spaces, boy was visiting the ATM cave of Belize was a blast.

A brief history of Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM):

Discovered in 1989 and also known as the Cave of the Crystal Maiden, the cave was used by the Mayans in the late classic period in a desperate plea to their gods to help flourish the lands with crops. Mayans were, as you know, an incredible civilisation, and while their end inevitably came from the arrival of the Spaniards, their downfall began a lot earlier. Although there are many mixed opinions on the matter, what was known as their farming capability was nothing short of destructive and conducive to their famine. Rather than refurbish and reuse farmland, they would burn it, and move on to the next patch. Mixed with drying wells, and bad weather, they soon were in danger of starvation.

Regardless of their technology, advanced mathematics and knowledge of the sky, to help with their famine, they turned to their gods.

Mayans believed in the supernatural, which included heaven and the underworld, both with many levels and deities. In this instance, praying underground, meant praying to the gods of the earth to refurbish the land. This is where the cave came in. It was a direct path to give a sacrifice of human life to please their gods.

Travelling deep into a cave:

The tour is quite the adventure, and you get a fun Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones vibe as you’re walking through the jungle, swimming through lakes and caves, and squeezing through narrow paths to find the hidden tomb.

The guide enriches the experience with deep knowledge on the history of the Mayans and the region.

Reaching the final room is incredibly rewarding and I still can’t fathom some of the bones, pots and natural cave formations left behind over 1,000 years ago. I don’t want to spoil the setting, you genuinely need to experience it.

But the Crystal Maiden is the final site. An almost perfectly preserved set of bones of an 18-year-old girl who had been sacrificed during this period. A reminder of some of the torment Mayans had endured, and their desperation to save their people from the coming famine.

Tips for visiting the ATM caves, Belize

If you are planning a trip here (which you should!) here are 7 tips, tricks and things to know before your visit to the ATM cave:

1) Bring reef shoes
Your feet with being submerged in water for much of the tour, so it’s best to bring reef shoes to wear as they dry quickly and won’t get smelly! Although preferable, you don’t need hard toe reef shoes – completely soft ones are okay and accepted by the tour companies. Ideally, if you are travelling down the east coast of Mexico, get them in Playa Del Carmen as it houses the most shops, offering greater choice (cost is anywhere from $10 – $20USD)

2) Bring socks
There is the dry cavern where you will be required to take off your shoes to enter and walk through. As such you’ll want socks on as the ground has many small sharp rocks!

3) Don’t wear a long sleeve shirt
While it seems like a good idea at first, particularly if you’re prone to getting cold, you do visit the dry cavern for quite an extended portion of the tour and you’ll be standing in damp clothes for a long time. As such, it actually makes you colder since you’re wearing more wet clothing, and don’t worry, the cavern air is relatively warm, so you don’t freeze!

4) If you’re a competent swimmer, you don’t really need a life jacket unless perhaps it’s the wet season!
During our visit in early April 2019 (the end of the dry season), the water levels were relatively low, so there were only 2 sections during which I had to swim as my feet could not touch the bottom (I’m 1.7m tall). This was at the very entrance to the cave for about 10m and after about 10 minutes into the cave.

Being said, our guide explained that during the wet season the water levels in the cave can rise by almost 50-60cm, in which case there would be significantly more spots on the tour where swimming would be necessary. Of course, if you are not a confident swimmer, or want the added warmth, then a life jacket is for you!

Also if you are looking to go in September/October, be mindful it is hurricane season and if water levels rise too much, the ATM cave is closed to tourists for safety reasons.

5) Get on the bus early
Being the first group in the cave is magical as the waters are clear (as groups traipsing through haven’t yet stirred up sediment) and with the quiet, it feels like you have the caves all to yourself. We were lucky enough to be the 1st group through for the day. As we were leaving, because you exit the same way you enter, we often ran into groups who had only just begun and were then forced to stop at multiple points to let exiting groups pass. As always, the early bird catches the worm!

6) You can’t bring cameras or video recording devices into ATM cave. Period.
Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events with tourists in the past have lead to this ban on all devices in the cave. The upside though is you don’t need to worry about dry bags, fiddling with cameras, and your attention is 100% focused on taking in the moment 😊. You do receive photos at the end of the trip, but they are pre-taken photos of the cave by the tour agency – there is no tour guide following you with a camera and taking pictures of your group!

7) You don’t have to be Indiana Jones or Lara Croft to do this tour
The tour does require some climbing up rocks and minimal parts of swimming (approx. 10m – 15m), but you don’t need to be a gym junkie to do this. The hardest parts are swimming into the entrance of the cave, climbing up a short ladder and a rock boulder to get to the dry cavern and probably squeezing through some tight spaces. All of this, however, is very much doable, and the tour guides guide you through every step, foothold and movement along the way.

Date visited: 16 April 2019.
Tour agency: MayaWalk Tours. We decided on these guys as they were one of the most and highest rated tour operators on TripAdvisor and departed at 7am from their office in San Ignacio.
The price paid: USD85 per person. We were initially quoted USD$95 but received a discount after requesting one for a group of 5 people.

THE EXCITEMENT OF TRAVELLING TO ATHENS

I’ve wanted to visit Greece, Athens, Acropolis since I was kid. I finally got to tick it off my bucket list, and boy was it an amazing experience for me.

I’ve done a small amount of travelling in my teenage to adult life. But always to nearby places, fitting in with the cliche of the day today Australian; the “affordable” traveller. We are all over Asia, because it’s close by and comparatively cheaper. I’d be surprised if you traversed Indonesia or Thailand and didn’t come across a loud and rowdy group of Aussies. But where we are fewer in travellers, is Europe. It’s far away, a high price for flights and expensive when considering currency conversion.

For this reason, many places I’ve always wanted to visit in my younger years have been just out of reach. But yesterday I got to tick off a long time dream and bucket list item.

As a kid, I always loved ancient/mythical stories. Hercules, Xena, Spartans and Gods battling to save the world or keep control of their domains. Roman and Greek mythos has always excited me and is why places like Italy, which I saw only last year, has also been one of my favourite places, ever. Rome astounded me with their mix of ancient and well-preserved buildings mixed within the enormities of modern society.

Greece – quickly summarising it’s problems

Athens, Greece, has been through a lot. From their ancient civilisation being conquered Romans from 509BC to 1453AD, to the Ottomans (Turkish Empire) occupying Greece for more than 400 years, they didn’t truly gain their independence again until the mid 1800s. Then came the many modern wars, and invasions through the 1900’s.

Shooting ahead, during the 1980’s Greece began exploring expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to help improve their economy, which unfortunately backfired on them, negatively impacting inflation rates, trade and growth rates.

Soon after, came the European Union, and despite the economy being in a bad state, they were let it in due to some doctored budget figures. Suddenly they were tied to the Euro and gained all the benefits of the EU; such as lowered interest rates on borrowing, and borrow cash they did. But with a lack of revenue coming into the country, it was not able to pay off it’s debts, and before long it had to claim bankruptcy.

Impacted heavily by this, are of course the millennials. In 2014, Greece’s unemployment rate was at an all-time high of almost 28%. This has now come down to 18%, but still very high for a country like Greece. Of this group, 70% are millennials.

This has impacted the generation in two ways.

Firstly, labelled the brain drain, Greece has a whole lot of millennials who are incredibly educated, due to their free education system, but are unable to get employed. So what do they do? They leave Greece to find work somewhere else in Europe.

The second is lashing out. This has a significant impact on the city of Athens in the form of graffiti. A city already pained with theft, congestion and waste. While some have turned to the arts as a form of expression, what i would call graffiti with style, others have littered streets with words of frustration and anger. Some roads look wondrous, beautiful even. Others unfortunately just ads to the chaos and pain of the city.

But why I loved Athens!

Arriving in Athens, we settled in for the day and prepped a few tours. I was eager to hear about the modern city, and it’s history before seeing the highlight. And I was pleasantly surprised by these experiences.

Beneath all of the issues, there is also still a lot of positivity. Greek people hold their heads high and are incredibly passionate and kind. They know they have some ironing out to do, and they’re not afraid to admit it. Friendly locals would remind us to hold our bags securely or engage us in conversations about our travels and give advice on things to do and see. I generally loved this about them.

Culturally, beauty shone through with; markets, music, dancing and food. There’s something to experience around every corner.

Then there is the highlight of the city, and for me, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

The Acropolis of Athens

We woke up early. I definitely wanted to beat the crowds. 7AM start, with pre-booked tickets in hand ready to march through the gates of the Athens’ Acropolis.

We walked hastily through the streets making our way there and for once Gabby saw some pace in my step. Finally, we made it with only 10 people in front of us. I was happy. The gates opened on 8AM, and BOOM, we ran our way up to the top point of the Acropolis.

I can’t express the feeling of emotion I got when I stepped through the archway to see the temples.

Despite the damage that had been done due to hapless Turk invaders who did more damage in a day to the location, than had been done to it in the 2000 years prior, it was in a great state. I was overwhelmed with how beautiful it was, almost to the point of tears.

The two main structures/temples stood tall to the left and right, barely a person in sight, as if the moment was just for Gabby and I. Marble flooring that was once the ground for the Greeks more than 2000 years ago was all around, heat reflecting in full force from the morning sun. The pylons of the temples stood tall and white, and you could envision the beauty it would have once held in its undamaged state.

To me, it was a real wonder.

Beyond the Acropolis is then the ruins within the city of Athens. The old Greek and Roman markets, the Agoras, and the temple of Poseidon. Each a marvel of their own, completing stories about how the ancient Greeks once lived.

Many tourists skip Athens and head on through to the Greek islands. But honestly, I can’t understand how you could miss something so wonderful.

7 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE VISITING CHICHEN ITZA: GUIDE, TIPS & TRICKS

Considered one of the new 7 wonders of the world. here are 7 tips, tricks and things to know before your visit to Chichen Itza.

Considered one of the new 7 wonders of the world as voted in 2007, the UNESCO world heritage site Chichen Itza is a must see in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. Located approx. 2 hours drive from the popular Tulum and Cancun, the Mayan engineering marvel is a fascinating sight to behold.

Dominated by the famous El Castillo or Temple of Kulkulcan, the ruins are made up of multiple sites and a network of paved roadways, reflecting the city complex, which was built sometime in the 5th century AD. By 600 AD, Chichen Itza had grown to become a thriving urban centre of Mayan civilisation, with an estimated 50,000 people living in the city at its height.

If you are planning a trip here (which you should!) here are 7 tips, tricks and things to know before your visit to Chichen Itza:

Beating the crowds means having the temple all to yourself.

1. Timezone differences!
Perhaps the most important of all, particularly if you are making the visit from Tulum or Cancun, is being aware of a possible time zone change. In 2015, the state of Quintana Roo (in which Cancun and Tulum are located) decided to change to Eastern Standard Time, permanently gaining an hour of sunlight for tourists. Chichen Itza located in the state of Yucatan however, which still observes Central Daylight Time. Although, during April – October when daylight saving is in play, both states operate in the same time zone.

Between October – April when daylight saving is not observed in Yucatan, this creates a time zone difference. During this time, Chichen Itza is an hour behind Tulum, so if you’re planning on getting there just before opening at 8 am don’t forget to factor that in otherwise you’ll be like us and arrive before 7 am!

2. An early start to beat the crowds
While you don’t want to be too early, you do want to get there as close to opening as possible. A small queue had already formed by 7:45 am and being amongst the first people inside for the day means you get to enjoy the quiet and awe of Chichen Itza without the crowds and in the relative cool of the early morning.

3. Taking in your SLR camera
Be mindful there is a fee for the use of what they deem professional cameras and videos at Chichen Itza and requires a separate ticket to be used (i.e. DSLR’s and go pros. Regular point and shoot cameras like our Sony RX100 was fine). As such if you’re not willing to pay the fee, or happy to use our phone to snap pics, leave your camera and GoPro at home.

4. Entry fees
You will need to buy two tickets at Chichen Itza – one is the federal fee (MXN75 p.p), and one is the state fee (MXN400 p.p). When we were there in April 2019, we could pay both tickets on credit-card, but it’s often said that the state fee is paid in cash.

5. Cenotes of Chichen Itza
Unfortunately you can’t swim in the cenotes at Chichen Itza, however, if you’re looking for great nearby ones, our favourites were Ik Kil (8 mins away) or Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman (45 mins away just on the outskirts of the nearby town Valladolid and on the way back to Tulum).

The cenote Ik Kil.

Both open top cenotes, Ik Kil though is consistently rated in the top cenotes in Mexico with beautiful vines that dip down to the 40m deep waters. It has many facilities, including an on-site restaurant, lockers and accommodation options. The entrance fee is MXN70.

For Hacienda Oxman, what’s different about this cenote is it has both a natural underground pool (with rope swing!) plus an above ground pool with a bar if you’re craving a bit of sunshine. It also has three options for entry fees, all of which include life vest use and access to the pool.

a) MXN80 flat entry fee
b) MXN100 entry fee with MXN50 redeemable on food and drinks
c) MXN150 entry fee fully redeemable though on food and drinks

While we didn’t try the food, it was nonetheless a perfect post-Chichen Itza stop for an afternoon swim and drinks!

6. Lunch
A fantastic stop for lunch near Chichen Itza is Yerberbuena in nearby town Valleidod. This serves a delicious meal with local Mexican dishes and even vego/vegan options. If you go, we highly recommend their mango frappe – it was divine!

Snapping a selfie with no crowds around.

7. Special events
There is a bi-annual festival during the spring and autumn equinox each year at Chichen Itza that celebrates the beginning of spring. An interesting fact: there is equal (12 hours each) of daylight and night.

Occurring every year in March and September – generally on the 21st of the month – on these days in the late afternoon around 4 pm, the light of the sun casts a shadow along with the steps of the Kulkulkan template that makes it appear like a serpent is slithering down the pyramid. This amazing display of the Mayan’s advanced astronomical knowledge and is a fun celebration to be had as thousands gather each year to admire this phenomenon. While we missed it this time around, if you are planning a holiday in these months, it will be well worth lining up the dates!

A NEW APPRECIATION FOR TRAVELLING

From someone was fear of long term travel, I’ve built up a new appreciation for the world and am now excited to take on the new challenges put before me.

—by Chris Sinclair—

Four months ago, I sat behind computer screen running digital consulting projects for my clients. Deep diving into their business, I would uncover gaps and areas they need to improve and help set them on a path to success. I loved it, I loved my job and loved the people and the company I worked for, I was fortunate.

I had done a small share of travelling before taking this long journey, but never I had I thought to leave my job for an extended period, jump on a plane and start exploring the world beyond a couple of weeks holiday here and there. The idea of it actually gave me anxiety. If you asked anyone close to me, they would tell you I spoke more negatively of adventure to come, than I did positive.

It sounds weird, naive, almost selfish, but I felt this for many reasons.

Firstly, I had a fear of changing scenery impacting my dyslexia. Knowing I would be breaking rhythms and processes I had put in place to help me build confidence in everything I do. I talk a lot about this here.

Secondly was the picture I had of the world. Media would tell me the world is a dangerous place, filled with criminals, terrorist and communists. And while this is true in some areas, the fear that is built up through social media, news and magazines is far from painting an accurate depiction of what the world is actually like.

We just finished our trip through Central and South America, starting from Mexico and working our way down to Brazil. And while we encountered dangers, I can confidently say none of these should ever have faltered how I had initially felt.

On the contrary, the challenges and experiences have been uplifting and reassuring that even breaking rhythms can help improve how I can combat the functions of my mind. I’ve would continuously think through and write out the experiences I’ve had to maintain the structure, and utilised mind app games to keep my head busy. And more exciting for me, putting my thoughts into a blog to share.

What I’ve also learnt is that sometimes you have to take everything you hear as a grain of salt. The barriers we build around ourselves and entrench our lives in, create illusions of distress in life. Most often, painted by the false nature of today’s media. It extends to prove how important it is to do your own research and gain a better understanding of a situation before letting it truly impact your decisions or emotions.

My best example of this was related to Gabby’s and my own desire to visit Brazil. I had heard so many stories of the issues and violence that occurs in this country, particularly in tourist areas. Similarly, I was chatting with a Brazilian friend back home and mentioned I was visiting their homeland. Their response to me was, “why?” And then they continued to list off everything dangerous about it, particularly the tourist areas like Rio. What I didn’t ask in return, was, “what are the good things?” and “how then could I stay safe?” Instead, I focussed on these negative points, and almost convinced myself and Gabby that we shouldn’t go to Brazil.

Needless to say, if I hadn’t had visited Brasil, I never would have known what I missed out on – but current me would scream that I would have regretted it.

There are dangers everywhere you go, even my own country, which I would consider one of the safest places on this Earth. That being said, even just last week, it was uncovered that a tourist had been kidnapped in South Australia. It unfortunately happens.

I now sit on a plane, making my way across Europe, ready to experience a place I am most excited about, Greece. But I travel with a new appreciation after coming from the Americas. It’s not one of being fearless. Please don’t misconstrue my newfound appreciation for the world as one of being fearless, it doesn’t matter where you go, you should always be cautious and aware. Instead, it is one of excitement and challenge, an open mind to understand and appreciate what the world has to offer, and how amazing every culture is, both positive and negatives.

Central America, it was the land and nature. In South America, it was the people and culture. Most notably, my appreciation for even the roughest parts of the world, people are still smiling and welcoming (check out my story on the Brazilian Favelas here).

A DIFFERENT SIDE OF RIO DE JANEIRO: THE FAVELAS

Finding a different side of the beautiful Rio De Janeiro by visiting the Favelas.

Visiting a Favela in Rio has been one of the best experiences I have had here in Brazil. While what I saw was only a small part of the broader issue Brazil faces with it’s more impoverished communities, it opened my eyes and gave me some insight into the complex and ongoing social undercurrents.

Rio now has a special place in my heart. It’s a great mix of beauty, flavour, movement and culture. Around every corner, something is going on, from small markets to groovy cultural street parties. Topping it all off, you have the gorgeous unending beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, overlooked by the one and only, Christ the Redeemer.

But amidst the fame and allure of Rio, is an unfortunate and less glamorous history.

View overlooking the Favela and the start of Rio city limits.

A very brief summary of how Favelas came to be:

Summarising the history could take thousands of words, but I’m going to do it a couple of paragraphs – this could mean I’ll be overlooking some details, but implore you to do some of your own research on the topic.

It begins with the settling of Brazil in the 1500s. The Portuguese arrived with their fleets and with it many slaves from Africa. Together with the indigenous people of Brazil, slaves were used to mine, build, farm and develop the country for the following hundreds of years. While there are many differing views on how many African American slaves came to Brazil, a local historian quoted by our guide puts the figure at a staggering 4 million throughout Brazilian history.

Consequently, Brazil was the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery in 1888. But they didn’t do it by choice, they were pressured, due to the changes in the modern world around them. Hesitantly, the announcement for the ending slavery was announced to the public, and overnight millions of slaves were “freed” but they now had no job, no place to live, no education and no money. They may have now been “free” in word, but not in action.

All things considering, the cities still needed workers, so naturally, the now free slaved flocked to the city for opportunities. Unable to afford homes in the inner city and unwelcomed by the elite and authorities, they were forced to live in the outskirts of towns and began building homes in surrounding mountains to escape. Thus the Favelas were born.

Experiencing the favelas:

We kicked off our tour by walking up to a newish, but already run down street-elevator. Built in the last five years and funded by the government, the elevator was installed to help locals travel the long distance to the top of the Favela. While a step in the right direction, locals would argue it is merely token support and a way for the government to show they are paying attention. Inevitably locals will still walk than use this slow mode of transport – that’s their way of life. For tours, though, it’s a perfect mode of transportation to introduce the Favela and give a better view of its sheer size and scale.

Entrance to the Favela Street Elevator.

With no education, prospects, or attention from governments and wealthier citizens below, it’s easy to see how favelas can get to where they are. These are some of the things we take advantage of in Australia, and it’s shocking to witness what happens when such extreme, and in our lives, expected social economics are ignored by society.

Reaching the top, we met some excited children and were asked if we were up for joining them in a game of….you guessed it, soccer (football). We eagerly accepted and mixed with other people from our tour; the game began on a ran down grass laid court.

The field was small, the size of a basketball court. The government developed it, but like many things in the Favela, it is seen as ‘token government support’. It’s building still does not address the heart of issues in the area, such as promoting, ensuring and enforcing education for all children. More so, it has become a symbol as with a lot of things in the Favela, as a “set and forget” mentality.

Regardless, the game was so much fun! Although the locals played for keeps, our team, mixed with Germans and Britts miraculously came away victorious. Luckily they were pleased that we put on a show, rather than pity them and hand over a half-hearted false victory.

Football with the kids of the Favelas, Rio De Janeiro

Shaking hands, we kicked on with the tour, through the narrow walkways and streets of the Favelas.

The happiness was a surprising side of the Favelas for us. Despite the rough and what we would consider unsanitary living conditions (think open sewage system, rickety hodge podge buildings, rubbish strewn everywhere and animal feces covering the streets), these people held their heads high and rejoiced in the fun to be had. I could never imagine this same mentality existing back home.

This emotion continued even later into our walk when an armed local ran past us; pistol raised with an extended mag. Fear and surprise were in our Gringo minds, but our guide and the locals around us shrugged it off as just another day in their life. “Ignore it, and it will ignore us.” This moment will haunt me for a couple of days to follow. A gun was held metres from my head, and no one thought any different.

But below the smiles and playfulness is still a concern. Violence against women amounts to the worst and majority. I glimpsed a corner with a female who had bruises across her upper body, and I couldn’t help but press the issue with my guide. You could hear the shame in his response, a clear indication that among all the crime, this was one that was a constant challenge to address with the prevailing ‘machismo’ attitude.

Often it is the men who get mixed up in the worst of the crimes (no excuse), while women are trapped at home, looking after the families. Unable to escape from fear and love for their family, some are abused, raped and beaten. Where else can they go? Society rejects them, police dare not enter, and worse, they have no prospects elsewhere.

Typically police could step in, at least try to tame the violence, but just like the next dog feeding on scraps, we discover police fuel some of the turmoil that occurs here. Guns can’t be purchased at any local shop, so instead, some police take advantage of the fear and instinctual need to protect oneself by selling weapons to local gangs. The tour guide assured me, the armed man who had passed by earlier had likely a police-purchased-gun.

It’s crazy to think situations like this occur. Just recently in Australia, a Melbourne Police officer was put on trial for corruption, and this made headlines throughout the country. Here in Brazil, it’s known daily what the police do, and no one bats an eyelid. I still can’t even comprehend this notion.

Opportunity to improve:

But buried beneath the bad, a lot of good is starting to rise-up due to opportunities like tourism in the area.

Michael Jackson stature commemorating his visit.

Similar to the impact of Michael Jackon’s visit back in 1995, for his film clip “They don’t care about us”, responsible tourism is shedding light on the issues, pushing favelas into the media spotlight and helping provide much-needed funding for the local community projects.

A portion of the money paid to the tour companies is reinvested to provide community services such as daycare for kids, staffed by local women for local families. It also helps clean some of the streets and alleyways and sets up educational facilities or local cooperatives of artists and artisans selling their wares to visiting tourists.

It’s not much in the grand scheme of the issue, but every little bit helps. It helps to set up the next generation from falling to crime, sucked in by the desire to earn quick cash through drugs and violence or easily manipulated by gangs due to a lack of parental figures in their lives.

It helps create jobs and shelters for those without, and a place to heal when tough situations arise.

Furthermore, it puts issues like this on the radar. To tell the world (even people like us) to pay attention and that their governments need to step up and do something more to create effective and lasting change.

If not for the adults, then at least for the kids and their futures.

Looking up through the street entrance to the Favelas.

Booking a tour:

Our tour was booked through Santa Marta Favela Tours.

I highly recommend them and Santa Marta as a place to visit when you come to Rio. Hand in hand with their promotion of responsible tourism in the Favela, they are respectful of the privacy and dignity of all people who live there and don’t treat the tour like a safari viewing.

Make sure you check with your tour guide when/where is appropriate to take photos!

Here is a link to their page to book a tour.
(We make no commission/kickback from this link)

GUIDE TO DISNEY WORLD MAGIC KINGDOM: TIPS, TRICKS & THINGS I WISH I KNEW

Disney World is truly a magical place, but can be tough to navigate with so many people. Here are key tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your visit.

Park VisitedMagic Kingdom on EMH
Date Visited Friday 22 March 2019 during spring break
(est. crowd calendar 8 out of 10)
Park Pass & Price
1 day Disney theme park base ticket (adult)
USD$132.50 p.p including all taxes and fees

On our last 2 trips to Tokyo and Paris, we had tried to visit Disneyland but could never line up the dates or quite make it work with our itinerary. So when planning our trip to the US this time around, Disney World was designated a “must see”. Unfortunately for us though, the only feasible dates perfectly aligned to spring break in Florida and try as we might, we couldn’t shift our timing. Our park of choice for this visit was the quintessential Disney World Magic Kingdom and so to maximise our time and minimise disappointment, I researched how to plan an optimal day in Disney World and luckily this paid off!

So how you might ask did we, during spring break period, manage to only wait a maximum 35 minute per ride, see everything we wanted to see and leave exhausted, but happy after a long and magical day?

Whilst by no ways exhaustive, these are just some of our own (hopefully) useful tips and tricks for an adults-only visit to MK:

1) Definitely try and score Extra Magic Hours (“EMH”) access

EMH is where guests of Disney resorts and select hotels can spend extra time in the theme park on a given day, either before it opens or after it closes. We timed our visit with a day EMH was in the morning for MK, so during spring break this meant MK opened at 7am with a significant crowd already gathered by 6:30am. EMH is definitely worth it in the morning though as whilst there was still a crowd gathered at opening time, ride wait times are the lowest they will be all day!
See below for non-Disney hotels that can still access EMH.

2) Arrive at least 30 minutes before opening time and don’t forget to factor in time passing through security, getting on the monorail and walking!

Don’t forget to factor in time walking from your car (if you drive) to the monorail entrance, passing through security, travelling on the monorail, and then time walking down from the station to the main gates of MK.
All in all at 6am the lines were minimal and we parked close to the entrance so this took about 15 minutes for us, however the later you go, the much longer the wait becomes particularly passing through the security check.

3) Book in your Fast Passes+ when it opens and book each pass 1.5 – 2 hours apart.

The Disney Fast Pass+ is a free benefit for everyone and one you should definitely take advantge of. It essentially allows you to “skip the line” on three attractions each day and it’s booking system opens 30 days in advance or 60 if you’re staying with a Walt Disney World resort or hotel with Extra Magic Hour benefits (such as where we stayed at Disney Swan Resort –see below!)

We unfortunately booked ours on the 3rd day after it opened and already missed out on securing a fast pass for the popular 7 Dwarves Mine ride. As such and given we love thrill rides, we booked our first 3 on: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Booking your Fast Passes 1.5 – 2 hours apart gave us the opportunity to fit in seeing one other ride between each Fast Pass attraction. For example we had a Fast Pass at 9:30am,11am and 12:30pm. Doing this also allows you some time to walk around and see the sites within each land without having to dash like a mad person to the next booking! Also don’t forget you can’t book your next fast pass until all 3 initial Fast Pass bookings have lapsed – so it’s best not to leave your 3rd Fast Pass booking late in the day!

4) Head straight to the 7 Dwarves Mine ride at rope drop

If like us you don’t secure a 7 Dwarves Mine fast pass, I suggest you make a beeline for this ride when the park opens as wait times reach up to 195 minutes by lunch and it never dropped below 70 minutes whilst we were there (yes it’s crazy).  Although we weren’t at the front of the line when the gates opened, we only had to wait 25 minutes for this first ride of the day!  After the 7 Dwarves, we then did the short walk to Peter Pan (a 30 minute wait) and by the time EMH ended and the park fully opened, we had seen 2 of the most popular rides, with Fast Passes+ booking for the remaining one’s!

Disneyworld selfie with Cinderellas castle.
Excitement – Cinderellas castle!

5) Constantly refresh your Disney app when booking in your next Fast Pass

Disney allows you to book more Fast Passes – albeit one at a time – once all 3 of your initial Fast Pass bookings lapse.

When we were re-booking our next Fast Pass, we refreshed constantly as new time slots opened up all the time. We were able to score a Fast Pass to Haunted Mansion, our next preference that way when the ride’s average wait time was 75 minutes.

Also, towards the end of the day the app often says all the Fast Passes are “exhausted” – but again just keep refreshing as new options always loaded back up.

Lastly, when booking in later Fast Pass slots, I’d recommend just booking whatever is appealing, even it’s a 2nd or 3rd preference. Then use the ‘modify’ reservation function in the app to keep scanning to see if another more attractive ride slot pop ups. That way you always have an option booked!

6) Bring a battery pack for your phone!

You will likely be glued to your Disney World app as it’s where all the wait times are updated in real time and where you can book your Fast Passes from. Add in free wifi park wide and the wait time for rides = significant screen time for the day.

7) Use noon – early afternoon to eat, check out the stores and take a break from the rides!

By lunch time, crowds are the craziest and wait times for the most popular rides can hit up to 200 minutes. Depending of course on when your next Fast Pass is, we used this time to grab lunch, check out the daily parade, do some shopping on main street and (for one of us) to take a quick nap to recharge.

For a summary of our day plan – see below!

Having a nap at Disneyworld
Having a nap.

8) When filling into cinemas or shows and selecting where to sit, pick the row where a fair number of people have gone before you

In every show there are attendants that direct people to fill up each row from the ends first, meaning people can’t just plop down in the middle of the row. This means that rather than choosing an empty row, if you choose a row where people have already gone before you, you have a better chance of getting a middle seat!

9) Visit the Crystal Arts shop on Main Street for the glass blowing demonstration

You get to see close up and personal a live demonstration on blowing glass by the same people who produce the wares on sale in the Disney shop! It’s an interesting and fascinating 15-20 minute show that was held every hour.

10) If you read in other blogs to skip the Happily Ever After fireworks at 9:15pm and line up for popular rides as the crowds lessen – DON’T DO IT!

Firstly, the firework show was one of the highlights of our entire day – it was the perfect end to our time at Disney World and a fantastic collaboration of fireworks, music, lasers, lights and all beloved Disney characters. It isn’t just for kids as it also touches upon many of the older classic Disney movies and isn’t a short show, going for a solid 18 minutes so it is worth the wait. We arrived about 40 minutes before the show started and got a prime position, but they do pack the square so as many people as possible can get a great view. I would also note I did check the app and wait times, and whilst they did decrease slightly on the popular rides it was only by 10-15 minutes, so still a 80 minute wait for the 7 Dwarves Mine or Space Mountain!

Firewords at Disneyworlds closing celebrations.
Night time fireworks at Disneyworld!

11) The bus may be faster

When leaving the park, if the line for the monorail is mammoth – take a bus! When exiting the park, rather than heading right to the monorail, veer left towards the buses. There are always many attendants around who will point you to the direction of the next bus. When we left, the line for the monorail was insane and rather than a >30 minute wait, we were able to board a bus straight away and was back at our car within 7 minutes.

12) If you want to buy Mickey Mouse ears, buy them at the start of the day

I ummed and ahh’d about buying Mickey Mouse ears and finally caved as owning an original pair from Disney World has been a long time want for me. If you buy it at the start of the day, at least you’ll get to wear it for the full day and maximise your cost per wear 😊

Mini Mouse ears at Disneyworld.
Mini Mouse ears at Disneyworld.

13) Check out Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn – it’s Mexican food with generous sizing sizes and affordable pricing.

If you like Mexican and are looking for a hearty meal, this is a good place.
You pay for base ingredients for your Mexican meal such as the meat, tortilla, rice, chips, etc but all toppings (cheese, salsa, sour cream, tomatos, lettuce, jalapenos) are self serve! So you can load up your plate for a filling lunch.

14) If Disney Resorts are too expensive consider these other hotels as they can access all the same Disney benefits such as the all important EMH!

  • Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
  • Shades of Green Resort
  • Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels
  • Four Seasons Resort Orlando
  • Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek; and
  • Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

We managed to score a great deal at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel (which despite the name is not technically a “Disney Resort”) and stayed for a fraction of what the cheapest Disney Resort would have cost us.

It was a great hotel however if you do stay here make sure to check if the daily US$30 resort fee is included in your quoted price or not! Also, good to note that parking is charged at US$20 per day in addition as well.

15) Save a bit of money!

Purchase your ticket through authorised resellers such as undercovertourist.com and scout websites such as http://www.ebates.com for any cash back offers! This worked out to be cheaper than purchasing direct from Disney (though bear in mind the type of ticket we bought) and I managed to score some cash back.

If you are new to ebates, you can automatically get US$10 back (plus any cash back %) by using this referral link! https://www.ebates.com/r/GABRIE25532?eeid=28187

16) Lastly, there are some great useful websites out there already that explain ride strategy, the fast pass system and the crowd calendar if you wish to read up some more!

Our ItineraryApprox. TimingApprox. Waiting Time
Arrived at the park entrance, ready and waiting for rope drop!6:30 AM30 min to
opening
1) 7 Dwarves Mine Railway7:00 AM35 min
2) Peter Pan 7:45 AM35 min
3) Splash Mountain (FastPass #1)9:30 AM5 min
4) Pirates of the Caribbean10:15 AM30 min
5) Enchanted Tiki Room Show 10:45 AM10 min
6) Big Thunder Mountain
Railroad
11:30 AM5-10 min
7) Monsters Inc Show12:00 PM10 min
8) Presidents Hall Show12:30 PM
9) Space Mountain (FastPass #3)1:15 PM15 min
Lunch / parade / shopping / glass blowing demonstration / snooze 2:30-6:30 PM
10) Mickeys Philharmonic Magic Show15 min
11) Haunted Mansion (FastPass #4)7:15 PM15 min
12) Dumbo (FastPass #5)8:00 PM10 min
13) Happily Ever After Fireworks
(snagged a spot by 8:30pm)
9:15 PM 45min
14) It’s a small world after all (FastPass #6) 9:45 PM5 min
Home time! 10:30 PM