Don’t Tell the Dollhouse, But…

The Gingerbread Diaries

We went away for the weekend and didn’t miss our new home–I know, it’s scandalous.

This past weekend we were in Jacksonville for Ancient City Con and stayed at a Hometown Suites room that couldn’t be farther from our new home:

  • Where the Dollhouse is nearly 3K square feet, this room made our cabin on the cruise ship look spacious.
  • Where the Dollhouse has lovely (if dusty and worn) wood floors throughout, the hotel room was carpeted.
  • Where the Dollhouse currently requires us to sleep with multiple fans pointed at us to stay comfortable, I frequently needed an extra layer in the hotel room.
  • Where I have trouble falling asleep at the Dollhouse because of all the still-new-to-me noises, I fell asleep easily each night at the hotel (even though I usually sleep horribly in a new place the first night).

And let’s not even get into how wonderful it was to be on the first floor–no stairs!

Now, I’m not saying I want to go give up the Dollhouse and build a Tiny House in our backyard or anything, it was just nice to feel a bit normal again surrounded by the towers of boxes and bins as we are. And I did feel a bit guilty about not missing home about midway through our stay. Even the “hotel smell” that some folks complain about was preferable to the still-musty smell some of the Dollhouse rooms have.

Despite all of that, it did feel good coming home to the Dollhouse, and I did sleep better that night that I have since we moved in. Sure, there’s noises coming from the wall of my studio, the water heater is being temperamental, and I’m not yet comfortable walking around this place barefoot, but we’ll get there. Eventually.

About the only apprehension I had about the trip was that it was the first time we’d be away from the Dollhouse overnight since moving in for real. The idea of coming home and things not being as we left them spurred me to contact our insurance agent and get the Rehab/Renovation/Not-Covering-Contents policy transformed into a full-on homeowner’s policy. And if you thought it was as simple as a phone call you’re obviously new to the saga of the Dollhouse; nothing is simple in our world.

Take one part stressed-out homeowner with a habit of active listening (which, on the phone, leads to several ‘rights, okays, and I understands) and one part overwhelmed agent (who interprets the active listening habits of the homeowner as defensive interruptions) and you get a recipe for a very tense transaction. We finally got where we needed to go only to find that no one knew how the bank wanted to handle it. I thought this was agreed upon back during the negotiations pre-closing, but apparently not. So add in a call to Wells Fargo while I’m still packing to go out of town and realizing there’s not a single pen upstairs when I needed to take down the contact info for the bank!

Then, of course, the long email I sent before getting on the road? Never arrived in her Inbox so the included request to send me the rundown of out policy options so I could actually make a decision? Yeah, that never happened. The cell reception in the convention area was horrible, but we finally got it together around 5pm on Friday. Because of the age of the house, our provider options were pretty slim anyway–note of caution to those looking to buy historic properties. The major decision was whether or not to go with Cash Value or Replacement Value on the contents coverage. The latter makes for a more expensive premium but Todd and I agreed that it was worth the additional expense to have that additional peace of mind.

So now I’m just waiting on refund checks from the two policies (the 6-month reno policy I paid directly before closing and the annual HOI that the bank recently paid on our behalf). When the HOI comes back I have to deposit back into the escrow account (I wish they could just refund it directly to Wells Fargo, but apparently it wasn’t an option) to put things back to rights. We had a bit of paperwork to settle up when we got back to town on Monday, and it was a good thing we did: a piece of mail from the insurance company got returned (for reasons completely unknown) and they took that to mean the house was vacant and violating the policy and were going to cancel it at the end of the month.

It’s always something with this place, it seems, but at least it’s never dull!

Disney Honeymoon Dreaming: Deciding Where to Stay

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
digital collage by Miss Road Trip

digital collage by Miss Road Trip

I’d managed not to pester Mr Road Trip for a honeymoon decision for a whole 8 months before reminding him that, if Disney was to be it, some decisions would need to be made soonish (this being back in March). While I know that plenty of people go to Disney World for short and long vacations both and only make minimal preparations, there’re so many things that you can miss if you just go with the flow.

I’m not really much of a go with the flow kinda girl (in case you hand’t noticed).

While I’ve been visiting  Disney World since I was a toddler, most of the more recent trips have been quickie weekends and nothing since 2006. Our honeymoon will be the first time I’ve spent a full week at the parks in over 20 years! For Mr. Trips it’ll be 20 years exactly, as he was there in 1993 with family, and that’s his last trip to The World period!

We’ve got some time to make up for, wouldn’t you agree?

Of course, the first thing you have to decide when planning a Disney honeymoon is where to stay, and the first decision is whether to stay on- or off-site.

In the interest of full disclosure I need to confess that I sleep on the side of on-site lodging: it puts you totally inside the Disney “bubble” and unless you really want to do otherwise, you can park your car and not even think about it until it’s time to (regrettably) head for home.

Still, there are options outside of staying at one of the numerous Disney-owned resorts, and they can offer some savings on your room as well as additional flexibility if you’re interested in hitting up other Orlando-area attractions. Everything from condos and vacation homes to hotel rooms of all sizes and prices exist out there and all of them will say the same thing: “minutes from Disney.”

And that might not necessarily be untrue, but minutes can be hours when you’re fighting the rest of the Orlando/Kissimmee area trying to drive to the parks, too. Then there’s parking (and the parking fees–$15/day, currently) and (ugh) the drive back. Like I said, I’m biased.

The other perk of truly nearby hotels and communities is that they run shuttles to save you some of the offsite hassle. Keep in mind, though, those shuttles tend to be hourly at best, whereas on-site shuttles are every 15-20 minutes. Just saying.

Not surprisingly, the Road Trips will be staying on-site, and we’ve picked the fun and cozy Port Orleans French Quarter–my absolute, hands-down favorite (and where the Jackrabbits will be honeymooning the month before–suddenly I’ve got “It’s a Small World” stuck in my head). I’ve stayed there once in the past, and just love the attention to detail (though that can be said of any of the resorts). It’s the smallest of the Disney resorts, and tends to be quieter, which makes it perfect for couples, I think!

Scenes from Port Orleans (circa 2004)

Scenes from Port Orleans (circa 2004)

Little details and an amazing river view.

Little details and an amazing river view.

I understand there was a recent renovation to the inside of the rooms and the lobby is being updated currently, so even though I’ve been there before, I’m looking forward to a new experience in the greater scheme of things.

If you’re heading to Disney (for a honeymoon, mini-moon, or just plain vacation). You probably want to avoid paying rack rates, and I can hardly blame you! Check out the resources at Passporter.com and TheMouseForLess.com to find out the best specials going on during your travel dates. If you have a Disney Visa or buy Annual Passes (more on this in the next post) you may qualify for additional discounts, as well as service members, Florida residents, nurses, teachers, and government employees (those last three for the Swan and Dolphin only). And if you book your hotel and a discount or special offer comes out later on, all it takes is a call to 407-WDW-MAGIC to see if those offers can be applied to your existing reservation.

Oh, and be sure to let them know if you’re making a honeymoon reservation or celebrating anything else–there’re no guarantees, of course, but letting them know it’s a special occasion can sometimes result in a little extra pixie dust thrown your way.

 Would you consider staying on-property at Disney for your honeymoon?
Why or why not?

The Decision of Where

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
image via stock.xchng | illustration by lockheed

image via stock.xchng | illustration by lockheed

Before a lot of wedding details can fall into place, the subject of where it’s all going to happen usually needs to be dealt with.

Traditionally, brides returned to their hometown to be married. After all, that’s where the parents (and, therefore, the money) were and all those childhood friends and extended family. Of course, these days our personal worlds are much more global, but many first-time brides still choose their hometown or somewhere familiar for their nuptials.

The returning bride, however, might have made a life for herself far from the old homestead and chances are good the groom has travelled a bit, too. Suddenly, going “home” doesn’t make as much sense as staying put and, even then, choosing a location can be tough.

Both Mr. Trips and I live far away from most of our family and while our wedding will be the small, intimate sort, we still want to make things simple for any out of town guests who wish to attend.

Some things to consider:

  • Is there adequate hotel space near the chosen spot for out-of-towners or do are there enough local friends who’d be willing to put them up for a night or 3?
  • For guests flying-in, how’s your local airport set? I know flying into and out of Tallahassee can be a bit of a bear and often increases the cost involved. Scouting out shuttle services from nearby cities or planning extra activities surrounding the wedding to entertain those out of town guests is a nice touch since they may opt for a longer stay to get better rates (flying in on Friday and out on Sunday being trés pricey compared to in on Thursday and out on Monday or Tuesday).
  • Destination weddings can even the playing-field a bit–everyone travels!–but can also exclude some folks you’d really want to be there if funds are tight (and, let’s face it, everyone is feeling the pinch these days).

There’s more to this than a simply your city or mine.

Add to this, living in a college town and planning a fall wedding meant dealing with football schedules. Not because we’re fans (sports are not something we’re majorly invested in), but because a large chunk of our city virtually shuts down on game days (and heaven forbid it be homecoming weekend). Since we wouldn’t know until February of 2013 (more than a year from when we started location scouting) if there would be a home game that weekend, we pretty much had to cut out any place downtown or near campus, as traffic could create major issues.

I was tempted, though–the last two years showed an off weekend or a Thursday night game for the first weekend of November, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to take that chance.

What were the big factors in deciding your wedding location?
Or was there even really a choice?