6 Tips for Last Minute Travel

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I adore traveling, I really do. This summer I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a few last minute trips with my family – like a trip to the shore, and one down to Florida. They were relatively unplanned and I had an amazing time during both of them. As it happens, I’m actually about to head out on yet another trip to the sunshine state – I can’t seem to get enough of that Florida sun, haha! Thanks to all this travel I’ve become something of an expert on eleventh hour travel, so I’ve thrown together a handful of my top last minute travel tips to share with you – plus, I’ve also got some deets on how you can save on your service plan with Walmart Family Mobile before you hit the road!

6 Tips for Last Minute Travel | read more at nyctalon.com

Find Your Go-To Luggage

Packing is half the battle, finding the perfect bag for either a weekend getaway or a weeklong adventure is crucial to avoiding overpacking and ditching extra stress. I have a convenient little carry-on, I know I can take it on the plane or pop in the trunk of a car. If space is really tight, I can also tuck it under my seat or put on on the seat next to me. You’re looking primarily for space efficiency, sturdiness/quality, and ease-of-use/comfort (is it easy to carry/roll?).

Walmart Family Mobile Affordable Service Plan

Keep Connected

Having an excellent plan, like I do with Walmart Family Mobile and their new 4G LTE service – means I know that I’ll be able to talk and text with my friends and family, as well as update my instagram instantly (see what I did there?), that way no one misses out on those epic sunsets, and I can get tips from other tweeters and ‘stagramers on great local places to eat at! Walmart Family Mobile Unlimited Talk, Text & Data service plan includes up to 1G of 4G LTE data and the first line starts at $29.88 a month!

So I recently broke my phone, I’m not going to bore you with the embarrassing details but I set my devastation aside and headed to Walmart for a quick replacement, where I picked up this LG Leon. It’s super slim, lightweight, is 4G capable and boasts a 4.5” Multi-touch screen, and 5 MP camera – plus, it has this super neat feature where you can actually have your camera respond to hand movements to take a pic, which means better family selfies!

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One shoe, two…

I have an extensive shoe collection, and I happen to be very fond of it. However, I’ve found that I only ever need two pairs of shoes when I’m traveling. At the most, I’ll take three if one of them are flip-flops. But usually I only need one pair for comfort and the other for fashion. Honestly, so many shoe brands have gotten hip to both situations that finding practical, stylish footwear isn’t as hard as it used to be.

Pack Smarter

With all that money you’ve saved on your service plan, you’ll definitely have spare cents to bring home plenty of souvenirs – I know I did! Make sure you have room in your luggage by not over packing in the first place. If there’s a drugstore near your hotel, definitely ditch the extra toiletries. Go for travel sized items, and if you don’t use an item regularly at home (like that uncomfortable but gorgeous top) chances are you won’t wear it while on the road.

Walmart Family Mobile Affordable Service Plan

Charge Up

Keep your new phone, and other electronics ready for the road by charging them the night before. Be sure to also charge spare batteries, and don’t forget to pack an extension cord!

Go Local

Finally, save even more time and money by researching and downloading local deal, delivery, and experience apps. You’d be surprised at how much you can save and how many amazing local spots you can hit up!

I hope these tips were useful to you (I know I always forget to charge before flying) – if you have any great travel tips then please share them below!

Walmart Family Mobile Unlimited Talk, Text & Data service plan includes up to 1G of 4G LTE data and the first line starts at $29.88 a month, to find out more about Walmart Family Mobile or the LG Leon click here! Happy travels!

Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to http://cbi.as/frw8 or your local Walmart for current pricing.

How to Save Money on Drinks at Universal Orlando

If you follow me along on instagram or twitter then you’ve probably noticed that I recently enjoyed a lovely vacation in Orlando. My family and I went last year and loved it so much that we went back – we couldn’t resist the allure of Hogsmeade and Jurassic Park, plus we heard that Diagon Alley and Gringotts had opened so it really was only a matter of time before we were reunited with Universal’s Orlando theme parks.

How to Save Money on Drinks at Universal Orlando | nyctalon.com

This year I noticed three things while at Universal, (1) the parks were at least 2x more crowded than when we went last year, (2) it was way more hot than when we went last year, and (3) omg bottled water is expensive! I think Gilly Water (bottled water available in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade) clocked in at about $4-5. If you multiply that times the size of my family and then multiply that number by the number of times we required water in the hot summer heat then you get = awholelottamoney! Basically, I’d much rather be spending that money on souvenirs, ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s, and cauldron cakes from Honeydukes. I picked up on a few tricks and can now give you the scoop – here’s how to save money on drinks at Universal Orlando:

How to Save Money on Drinks at Universal Orlando | nyctalon.com

Stop by the gift shop when you arrive and get this giant cup. Seriously, it’s $6.95, your first fill up is free and subsequent refills are $0.99+tax. You can get refills all over the park and it’s large enough to keep your family’s thirst quenched. Also, you get a pretty neat souvenir.

How to Save Money on Drinks at Universal Orlando | nyctalon.com

Free water. No I’m not talking about the water fountains peppered around the park. Those are useful, but they’re not as frequent and easy to locate as the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines located pretty much everywhere. After plopping down $30 in Gilly Water, a park attendant walked over to us and clued us in – the Freestyle machines provide park-goers with free water (and ice!) – huzzah! Thank you kind park employee! If you were like one of us who was languishing for low-carb, no sugar, drink options that were not water, you can also take this opportunity to bring one of those to-go powdered drink packets and make your own drink.

How to Save Money on Drinks at Universal Orlando | nyctalon.com

For more tips, check out my 10 Things to Know Before You Go to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure post here!

Do you have any tips or tricks for Universal fun? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below!

10 Things to Know Before You Go to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

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1. Refillable Cups

At Islands of Adventure, when you purchase a souvenir Butterbeer cup, it costs less to get a refill of Butterbeer in that cup than if you were to buy an additional disposable cup of Butterbeer. Also, refills of any soda (in your souvenir BB cup) throughout the park are $0.99. However, your best bet is to go straight to the gift shop on the left when you enter the park and buy a refillable cup there. When I was there they were selling a tall Alien (Men in Black) cup for around $11 – this cup holds far more liquid then the tiny Butterbeer cup and also costs only $0.99 per refill!

2. Food –

I’m sorry, I love Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, but I found that the food there is complete rubbish. That’s not to say that it was horrendous, but it certainly lacked much in the flavor department. I don’t know if that’s because they have the conundrum of serving a wide range of palette’s from around the world, or what, but I disliked the food, and further disliked having to pay for a sub-par meal. I recommend that you bring your own snacks, go to the in-park Starbucks, or look for options out of the park for eating. I hate to say it, but this is my honest advice. However, if you end up throwing caution to the wind, go for the meal plans advertised upon entrance to the park – you really will save loads more with those – we did!

3. Express Pass –

I went to the park in June and although we fiercely debated it we’re so glad that we didn’t pay extra for express passes. Lines were never more than a half hour wait for us, however, a friend visited the park in July and experienced significantly longer lines. I think if you’re going during the busy season (July-August) and can afford it, go for it.

4. Arrival –

If you have fast passes because you’re staying at the Universal Resorts (or if you purchased them) then yes, you’ll want to be there about an hour earlier than the advertised time. When I was there they let fast pass holders in at least an hour before regular admission. If you don’t have a fast pass, I’d say get there around 9am. We arrived at the parks about 8am, were let through the front gate and then had to wait an hour after fast pass users were let through to the rides.

5. First Stop –

Be prepared, in the morning (if you arrive early) two lines will form once you’re past the entrance – one going to the left, that leads to Marvel Super Hero Island; and one to the right that is the fastest route to Hogsmeade. In the morning, after the fast pass users have gone in, a majority of visitors will line up to the right. When they officially open the park it will be like the running of the bulls to get to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And I mean that in the best sense, of course no one gets hurt or trampled or has any memorable meet-ups with a wild bull – but kids and adults alike will race with sheer glee to get to Hogwarts. Which brings me to my next “thing to know”…

6. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter –

If you plan on visiting TWWofHP and don’t want to spend a majority of your day waiting on line in Hogsmeade, go here first. Your first ride should be the Forbidden Journey, and should be done with the group/family that you came with. You’ll all get to experience the “tour” of Hogwarts and what I personally think is one of the best rides ever. Any subsequent rides on the Forbidden Journey should be done as a single rider – the side route to the single rider line can sometimes be hard to see, but it’s directly to the left of the lockers. As a single rider you do skip much of the tour, but you also spend far less time waiting in line.

Go on the Flight of the Hippogriff. Yes, it looks a bit childish next to the Dueling Dragons coaster, but it gives a great view of Hogwarts, you can take pics right by Hagrid’s house while waiting – and there’s a pretty cool animatronic Hippogriff too! Bypassing this one would mean missing out on a fun piece of Hogsmeade.

Take your time to look at everything- there is just so much detail that Universal put into TWWofHP that it would be such a shame to miss out on it. Some of the coolest things we saw were behind the glass of pretend store fronts.

7. Things to Bring -

No need to bring a massive bag here! It will definitely slow you down, as you’ll most likely need to stuff it in a locker before getting on a ride. Adults will need I.D.’s to enter the park, and of course you’ll want to bring your camera, phones, and snacks – but try to keep it light. One thing you’ll wish you thought of (and now you don’t have to, because I’m telling you, haha!) is to bring stamps! You can purchase your TWWofHP postcards at Dervish & Banges and get them stamped with a special Hogsmeade Owl Post Stamp right there. Slap on your stamps and send them off right there in the park – they have a massive mailbox right by the entrance/exit. Also, bring some quarters and pennies – many of the gift shops and bathrooms offer those penny-press machines which are cheap, fun, souvenir.

8. Price Range –

I had no idea how much things were going to cost in Universal before going, I did assume things were going to be on the pricey side as with all theme parks. While I can’t provide you with a general price point for all the items at Islands of Adventure – as most of my shopping centered around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – I can tell you wands were about $35 each, a Butterbeer with the souvenir cup was around $10, Robes were $115, a Cauldron Cake was around $5, a Chocolate Frog was $10, a Triwizard Tournament Cup was $20, and an assortment of Harry Potter themed pins and keychains ranged from around $7-15.

9. Entrance/Exit –

You can enter and exit the park as many times as you like. Which means you’ll have even more dining options via City Walk, and you can go to your hotel and return later in the day for more fun.

10. Gift Shopping –

One of my favorite features (that I took advantage of far too late) is that you can have your purchases sent to the front of the park. This is an excellent option if you don’t want your new Elder Wand getting damaged by all the water you were soaked with while seated in the front row on the Jurassic Park River Adventure Ride. All you have to do is let your cashier know that you’d like it sent up as you’re checking out. Please note that you can not send up food (like Cauldron Cakes), and it takes about two hours for your purchases to make it to the front of the park (sometimes longer in the case of rain or storms).

Please keep in mind all these tips are opinion-based on recent personal experience, and therefor are all subject to change. If you have any additions, comments, or questions just drop them in the comments section below! If you’re headed to Universal Orlando or planning a trip there, I hope you have a blast!

Cape May: The Original Fudge Kitchen

The Original Fudge Kitchen is located pretty much anywhere convenient along the Jersey Shore. Still, I’m really partial to the one located in Washington Street Mall. It’s not that the other ones are worse, it’s just that I have fond memories of grabbing samples from that location since I was a little girl.

The Original Fudge Kitchen

I’m not even going to mince words with you here – The Original Fudge Kitchen has the best fudge. Ever. My sister and I polished off about two pounds between the two of us during our week-long stay at the shore. There was something so magical about evenings spent staying across the street from the beach, watching old black and white films, and gorging ourselves on delicious fudge. Those are the kind of memories that I’m going to carry with me forever.

The Original Fudge Kitchen in Cape May

Our first couple of days in we decided to pick out a pound of fudge. You get about 8 pieces in a pound. She chose plain chocolate and vanilla chocolate chip, while I went for Rocky Road. I’m just going to let the pictures do the talking here ;)

Fudge from The Original Fudge KitchenRocky Road FudgeVanilla Chocolate Chip Fudge

They’re all so good, I just can’t imagine going to Cape May and not buying up some of The Fudge Kitchen’s fudge. Rocky Road is my all-time favorite, but all the other flavors I’ve tried are equally as addictive. We ended up bringing home an additional two pounds for the rest of our family.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, I definitely recommend their fudge – plus, they have an overwhelming variety for you to choose from. And if you’re not hitting the Jersey Shore anytime soon, you can actually buy their fudge online! We’re already planning on buying some for the holiday season!

If you have any questions about my Cape May experience, be sure to leave a comment below!

Cape May: Kohr Bros. Frozen Custard

One of the first things that my sister wanted to do when we got to Cape May was have some of the Kohr Brothers frozen custard. I mean she was really set on it, and it’s not like she had it before, it’s just that during our youth when we visited Cape May our dear darling grandfather once made a fuss about how good Kohr’s was – but never actually took us to try it. That’s not to say that they didn’t let us have any treats, they did let us take samples from the Fudge Kitchen – but only after we made dinner and scrubbed the dishes. Ah, good times, good times.

Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard

I’m just kidding, you know I jest (*cough, cough*), and the samples were always generous. Anyways, about those Kohr Brothers and their fancy newfangled frozen custard. If you check out their site they have a pretty interesting tale about where and how Kohr Brothers frozen ice cream came to be, it’s certainly worth a read – so I’ll link it here. But, long story short – they’ve been dishing (scooping? serving?) up the good stuff since 1919, and their custard (made of milk, cream, sugar, and eggs) apparently has less fat than regular ice cream. I want to say that that impresses me, but I’m just not the kind of person who counts the calories of my dessert.

Kohr Brothers in Cape May

My sister chose the mint and chocolate swirl, while I – ever the adventurous sort – went for chocolate and vanilla (what? I’m a New Yorker!).

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They were delicious. I have to be honest, it tastes a lot like typical yummy delicious soft serve. It’s soft, sweet, and just great. Except for one very significant detail – there is completely no aftertaste, like you know when you have an ice cream and you get this sticky aftertaste in your throat and you have to drink some water – yeah, well you don’t get that at all with Kohr’s frozen custard. It’s a very clean enjoyable yummy dessert. Turns out grandpa was right, Kohrs is good! So if you’re in Cape May, or near any one of their 10 locations, after you’ve cleaned the dishes, mopped the floors, made dinner, and trim the hedges, definitely try to stop by Kohr Brothers! ;)

Cape May: West End Garage

One hot Sunday, my sister and I decided to walk from where we were staying on Beach Ave. to Sunset Beach in Cape May Point. It was kind of hot and humid out, but we’d packed lunch and iced tea so we were pretty confident that we could walk the three miles there in good time. Along the way we stopped in at West End Garage.

west end garage at Cape May Point

My sister’s an artist, and I have a love of beautiful things so it made sense for us to stop in.

At first I thought they just sold local art – but while my sister was exploring the gorgeous Cape May paintings I wandered towards the back where I found loads of handcrafted items as well as many many antiques and original pieces.

It’s really a lot bigger than it looks like from the outside!

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Candles! I own loads of Bath & Body Works candles, and couldn’t resist checking out these original pieces of wax art! How cool is the giant R2D2 and Yoda!

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It’s an old-school typewriter! I dream of one day collecting these, I don’t have the space right now so my secret desire shall have to wait, lol!

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What the…?

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They do sell a lot of clothes and fashionable pieces, as well as glass created by local artisans, but I’m more interested in the older things – which West End is full of!

Lot’s of interesting finds… Including a working 1800′s brass ship compass, and an Artillary Casing from the USS Dubuque (1975) that apparently was collected by a sailor from the Dubuque while it was operating in Vietnam. Also, a set of vintage steer horns in pretty good condition.

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Mugs from Tiffany’s!

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I kind of regret not getting this Forget Me Not cup, I really wanted it but talked myself out of it at the last minute – and it was only $3.99! I just didn’t want it to break on our way back.

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Okay, so get this in West End we snapped a pic of this glass case and on closer inspection we found something pretty fan-freaking-tastic:

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Closer inspection:

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Somewhere stuffed in there is a rare 1935 edition Johnny Gruelle illustration (for $24). Well, Johnny Gruelle was an American artist, political cartoonist, and children’s book author and illustrator. He also happens to be known as the creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy! How crazy is that? If I had known then, I totally would have snapped it up!

Look at this 1952 magazine – aren’t her lashes amazing?!

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I had such a great time exploring the West End Garage and definitely plan on returning sometime in the future! Click here to visit their website and for more information.

Cape May: Mario’s of Cape May Review

Two New Yorkers accustomed to legendary New York pizza make pretty tough customers for any pizza shop. But during our visit to Cape May on the Jersey Shore, my sister and I absolutely loved the pizza from Mario’s of Cape May. We stopped by while looking for a fast easy lunch during a hard laborious day of shopping. Located in the Acme parking lot, across the street from Washington Street Mall, and next to Cape Orient, Mario’s is completely unassuming. I mean really, if you’ve seen one pizza joint then you’ve seen them all – what separates the wheat from the chaff is all in the pizza.

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During our visit they were running a lunchtime special of two slices and a medium drink for $5 – a pretty good deal. The first time we stopped buy, we weren’t in a sharing mood and opted for separate slices – I had a slice with broccoli and tomatoes, and my sister had a slice of the margherita.

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Mine was ridiculously good – the crust was warm and crunchy, not too thick, not too thin – and stood up to the weight of the toppings without being hard. And the toppings tasted fresh, well seasoned, and delicious. The slice was super filling, although I could have gone back for another one – but my sister had promised me a dessert of Polish custard and I was determined to leave room for it.

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My sister’s margherita slice inspired jealousy on my part. It smelled so good! My sister, being generous of spirit, required no coaxing to offer me a bite. And yes, it tasted it as good as it smelled. The margherita contained mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino romano, white cheddar cheese, garlic, fresh tomato chunks, and fresh basil – all combined on a crunchy, warm crust. My sister commented that she could even taste the yeast in the dough – she’s made bread, and make’s lots of pizza dough, and pie crusts all the time so if she’s impressed I’d take her word for it.

We came back a couple days later to take advantage of their lunch deal. You can’t really do a review of a pizza place without tasting the standard plain cheese slice – at least that’s what I told myself.

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The plain cheese pizza re-affirmed my opinion that Mario’s was a pretty darn good pizza joint. Warm, cheesy, enough sauce, crunchy (but still soft) crust, and not too much oil – what more can you ask for?

Mario’s was another great Cape May find for us – we did try a pizza place on the boardwalk, across the street from where we were staying and it was overpriced and horrible (it didn’t even rate a review, or a even a picture). If you’re staying near the boardwalk, Mario’s is more than worth the walk (or drive). However, we did have a Chicken Parm & Pasta Molto Mario Meal one rainy evening and found it satisfying – or should I say filling – but unimpressive. So I’d recommend you stick with the pizza, with which you’ll be thoroughly impressed!

Have you been to Mario’s – what was your experience like? Have any favorite places that you visit while in Cape May? Let me know in the comments below!

Cape May: Cape Orient Review

So earlier this summer, my sister and I went on a week long vacation to the Jersey shore – no, not that Jersey shore – we hit up classic seaside destination Cape May. We had a blast – and minus a car we definitely had our fair share of adventures. I’ll be sharing all the deets of our vacay, including where we played and stayed as well as our picks for the best places to eat, sleep, and tan!

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One of the places we ate at was the Cape Orient – located right off of Washington Square Mall, and a few paces away from Acme supermarket, Cape Orient is an established Cape May eatery. It’s obviously a favorite of the locals, many of the customers were familiar with the staff and would actually call in to pre-order the fish they planned on eating before coming in for dinner. One of the walls in the entrance is lined with awards and reviews, and despite their apparent culinary klout we found the hostess that greeted us to be very warm and friendly – but not in that weird overbearing way that makes you feel like you’re about to get fleeced.

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Now, the two times that we went were for takeout. The first time we shared Chicken Pad Thai and Wonton Soup Deluxe – it came out to about $14.

The description for the Wonton Soup Deluxe said it had chicken and shrimp, but ours also had shreds of pork, as well as snow peas, carrots, and of course, wonton. The pork, chicken, and shrimp were tender, the snow peas and carrots were bright and tasty, while the wonton literally melted in my mouth. It was simply delicious, flavorful, and one order of the small ($3.95) was enough for both of us to share.

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The Chicken Pad Thai was my favorite item that we tried from Cape Oriental. The noodles were perfectly cooked and packed with flavor! It’s not overwhelmingly spicy (keep in mind, we love spice/heat in my house and often eat such foods), and definitely rates as one of the top Pad Thai’s that I’ve ever had. It contained peanuts, scallions, basil, onion, red chili pepper, and other spices. While it was enough to fill us, it was so good that we could’ve eaten more just for the flavor.

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Ours came with white rice and a sweet & sour (?) sauce. We actually didn’t use the sauce – I didn’t like it, I know some people are big fans but the smell just turns my stomach. But we liked the Pad Thai noodles so much that we’re determined to find good Thai in the city now!

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The second time we ordered Peking Duck Rolls, and Chicken Lo Mein. The Lo Mein looked like standard NYC fare, but was surprisingly tasty. And unlike standard NYC fare, it wasn’t drenched in oil and had a nice amount of veggies – which I thoroughly appreciated.

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The Peking Duck Rolls however, were more of a disappointment. There was far to much hoisin sauce in our rolls – and ruined the perfectly tender and otherwise delicious mahogany roast duck. If there had been less hoisin I’m sure the rolls would have been amazing, but our rolls pretty much had equal parts hoisin and equal parts duck – which isn’t the most desirable combo.

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Altogether, Cape Orient was definitely a great find for us. We would go back in a heartbeat. In fact in hindsight I wish we had had another round of their Pad Thai during our stay. Their menu is definitely worth exploring – and I do hope I get another chance to do so!