Why Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Why Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Why Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Comparing value to cheap

cheap vacation

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013 via Flickr

Everyone likes to save money; that’s a given.  We search for deals and steals and feel good when we find a bargain.  But are we always getting the best value?  We tend to stop and think about this when buying something like say, a camera.  We want a good deal, but we probably don’t want the cheapest camera.  Why?  Because we care about having good pictures of our families and the cheapest camera probably isn’t going to do that.  So instead, we may watch for a good deal on a quality camera, trying to save a little money but getting a good value overall.

Many more people, though, don’t necessarily think about this when traveling.  One of the most popular searches for vacations on the internet is something along the lines of “cheap vacations” or “cheapest flights.”  Is the cheapest vacation truly a good value?  If you save money but end up being miserable, or even just mildly unhappy, was that vacation a good investment?  Probably not.

I’ve got an example for you.  I was taking my family on vacation and we were looking for a flight.  We saw some deals and thought, “Well, it’s just a flight.  We’ll look for the cheapest deal.”  It meant flying on an airline we’d never flown on and not getting to pick our own seats.  Hmmm.  Well, why not, we’ll try it, we thought.  Bad idea!! So bad!  We ended up in the least comfortable seats on the plane – the row before the exit row, which means the seats don’t recline at all.  To us, this mattered (especially to my husband)!  The service was lackluster, and to top it off, we had a 3 hour layover each way, which with two very small children is just not a great idea.  It would have been worth it to pay for a flight where we could pick our seats, have a shorter layover (or none at all) and had a decent flight to start off our vacation right.

Another great example is when considering a cruise.  I often hear people saying they want the cheapest cabin possible.  If they have cruised before and have tried this and say they love it, that’s one thing.  But for those who have never cruised and are just admiring the price, they may be in for a surprise: those interior rooms are tiny.  And not only are they tiny, but they are dark, as there is no source of natural light anywhere.  Because I work with families a lot, the thing that needs to be considered here is: Are you willing to save a few dollars in exchange for stuffing 4 of you into a room much, much smaller than your average hotel room?  Are you going to fully enjoy your vacation in that close of quarters?  Or is it a better value to move up a category and enjoy not only the activities on the ship and in port, but also enjoy each other when all four of you are not sleeping mere inches from each other and annoying each other at every turn?

It’s not to say the cheapest trip will never be a good value, just that it needs to be looked through thoroughly and evaluated.  Like anyone, I’m a big fan of saving money.  Just be sure the good deal you are getting is actually a deal you will enjoy.

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Disney Springs: Downtown Disney Expansion Announced

Disney Springs: Downtown Disney Expansion Announced

Disney Springs: Downtown Disney Expansion Announced

Disney Springs

Copyright Disney 2013

Disney has officially announced an expansion for Downtown Disney in the Walt Disney World resort.  If you’ve been to Downtown Disney in the past, you know it’s already got a nice selection of shops and dining.  But this new expansion will take to a whole new level.  Featuring new and unique shops and dining, an enhanced lakefront area and a bubbling spring throughout, this new expansion will double the number of shops, restaurants and other entertainment, resulting in a total of more than 150 establishments.

Disney Springs will be comprised of four neighborhoods.  According to Disney, those are:

  • The Town Center, which offers a sophisticated mix of shopping and dining along with a promenade where guests can relax, refresh and reconnect.
  • A colorful and thriving commercial district called The Landing with inspired dining and beautiful waterfront views.
  • The family-friendly Marketplace that will continue to delight guests of all ages by combining new experiences, such as an over-the-water pedestrian causeway, along with classic Disney favorites, including an expanded World of Disney store.
  • West Side that provides an exuberant atmosphere with lively entertainment, along with a series of new elevated spaces that provide both shade and an overlook to the activity below.

 

Disney Springs Marketplace

Copyright Disney 2013

Construction is scheduled to begin in April and will be completed in 2016.  However, the new areas will be opened in phases along the way.

I always recommend families make time to visit Downtown Disney during their vacations, but now with Disney Springs growing in such size, it may become a “must do” more often.  Find more details on the Disney Parks Blog and see more concept art.  What are your thoughts on this expansion?

 

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Technology vs. A Personal Touch: When a Human is Still Better Than a Computer

Technology vs. A Personal Touch: When a Human is Still Better Than a Computer

Technology vs. A Personal Touch: When a Human is Still Better Than a Computer

technology is not always better

Photo credit: Jami3.org via Flickr

I love technology.  I really do.  I may have a slight addiction to the internet.  So trust that I understand how great it is to have so much information at our finger tips.  For years, technology has been growing all around us, letting us get a whole lot done for ourselves that we may not have done ourselves before.  But as so much has become automated, there comes a time when you step back and think, is the tech version always the right choice for me?

Here’s the thing.  You start thinking of needing a vacation, so you head to Google.  You type “cheap vacations” or maybe “Caribbean vacation” and what happens?  A gazillion results pop up.  Alright, so now you start sifting through all those results.  What do you find?  More lists of places, more prices, more deals, more everything.  So what you’ve got is thousands upon thousands of options and it takes forever to sort through it all to find what you really wanted.  What if you had a an expert to do that for you?  A real person?  Someone to listen to you say, “So I’m thinking of going on vacation.  Maybe the Caribbean” and knows to ask in return, “What kind experience are you hoping for?  What did you love about your previous vacations?  Do you like more of a relaxed beach experience or a more adventurous experience?  What’s your ideal budget range?”  And so forth.  See, in that little bit, a travel consultant can narrow a lot down, and then spend their time researching to find the very best options.  You just saved yourself hours and hours and hours of research – for free.

What actually got me thinking about this was fashion.  Fashion is everywhere online.  I can read about the latest styles, see magazine websites with outfits put together, browse endless online shops.  I could, in theory, learn about being stylish on the internet.  Is there a real life alternative?  Yup!  It’s called a personal stylist, and it makes quite a difference.  I happen to know an excellent one.  Her name is Jennifer Saul, and she is way better than the internet.  Why?  Because Jen will get to know my personal tastes, my lifestyle and my budget, and she will help me find clothing and accessories that are exactly my style, every time.   A personal stylist saves her clients time and even saves them money by helping you avoid those items you buy that then hang in your closet for years, never to be worn.

Examples are everywhere.  What if you want to buy or sell a house?  Certainly, there are homes for sale by owner, and you can scout out houses on your own online.  You can search Craigslist and many other sites.  But there’s a reason that real estate agents exist, and I suspect most of us are using one to complete these transactions.  Why?  Because they are experts in this field, trained to help get you through all the information you need and their job is to help their clients find the best house or make the best sale.  Despite the fact that you COULD do this yourself, you probably aren’t, because you value the knowledge a real estate agent has, the time they’ll save you and the advice they can give.

So while we love browsing Pinterest for new craft ideas and Foodgawker for new recipes, consider that a vacation is a large investment.  You can spend hours upon hours to DIY and take the chance on it turning out lovely (like that one recipe you tried) or seriously awful (like when you tried that really cute Christmas craft that looked absolutely ridiculous when you were done with it).  You can take your chances googling “cheap vacation” or “Hawaii hotel…”  Or, you can have a travel consultant whose job it is to know the industry and get to know your preferences and travel style, take care of it all for you.

 

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Spotlight On: Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot

Spotlight On: Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot

Spotlight On: Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot

disney23

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of dining in Epcot when in Disney World.  The restaurants, by far, are the most diverse and interesting to eat at.  Restaurant Marrakesh is not one of the most popular restaurants in the park, but that’s a shame.  It’s an overlooked gem that you should definitely try on your next trip to Epcot.

The Morocco pavilion, like all of the pavilions, is gorgeously constructed.  From the fountain in the middle to the street shops, it’s all very authentic and lovely.  After enjoying the ambience on your way, step into Restaurant Marrakesh for some amazing Moroccan food.

If you’ve never had Moroccan food, it’s got a fabulous mix of spices, usually containing a little cinnamon which is surprising to a lot of people upon first taste.  The combo is delicious, though, so don’t be afraid to try it.  Here’s a quick snapshot of the menu:

Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot Menu

APPETIZERS:

Appetizer Combination for Two – Beef Brewat Rolls, Chicken Bastilla, and Jasmina Salad

Moroccan Salad Combo For Two – green pepper and tomato, marinated olives, carrots, potatoes, and cucumber salad

Harira Soup – traditional hearty soup flavored with tomatoes, lentils and lamb

Beef Brewat Rolls – baked layers of thin pastry filled with seasoned minced beef, eggs, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar

Seafood Bastilla – baked layers of thin pastry filled with grouper, shrimp, mushrooms

Chicken Bastilla – baked layers of thin pastry filled with minced chicken and almonds, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar

Goat Cheese with Crispy Bread for Two – mixture of cheese and kalamata olives served with red pepper sauce and balsamic vinegar reduction

Mussels Casablanca for Two – steamed mussels served with capers, tomatoes, and light saffon cream sauce

Assorted Mediteranean Salads for Two – Falafel, sundried tomato hummus, roasted eggplant puree and tabouleh

 

MOROCCAN SPECIALTIES

Couscous – the national Moroccan dish – , steamed tiny semolina pasta
— Beef
— Lamb Shank
— Chicken Couscous
— Vegetable Couscous
— Couscous M’Rouzia: braised beef served with prunes, balsamic vinegar, honey, sesame seeds, and eggs

Shish Kebab – grilled tenderloin of beef with rosemary roasted potatoes and vegetable medley

Roast Lamb Meshoui – lamb shank braised in natural juices served with roasted eggplant puree, zucchini, and tomatoes $27.99

Lemon Chicken – braised half chicken with garlic, green olives, and preserved lemon

Chicken Kebabs – brochettes of chicken breast, olive salad and dried fruit sweet couscous

Mogador Fish Tagine – marinated fish with olives, lemon confit, potatoes, green peppers, and chermula sauce

 

ROYAL FEAST

Choice of one appetizer:

Jasmina Salad
Lettuce, tomato, olives, feta cheese in mustard vinaigrette

Seafood Bastilla
baked layers of thin pastry filled with grouper, shrimp, mushrooms

Choice of one entree:

Lemon Chicken
braised half chicken with garlic, green olives, and preserved lemon

OR

Roast Lamb Meshoui
lamb shank braised in natural juices served with roasted eggplant puree, zucchini, capers lemon confit and tomatoes

OR

Couscous with Seven Vegetables
National dish – steamed tiny semolina pasta served with seasoned vegetables

And for dessert: Assorted Moroccan Pastries

MARRAKESH FEAST

Harira soup – a hearty soup with tomatoes, eggs, lentils and beef.

Beef Brewat Rolls – baked layers of thin pastry filled with seasoned minced beef, eggs, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar

Marrakesh Mixed Grill (Tenderloin of Beef Shish Kebab, Lamb Merzuez Sausage, Marinated Chicken Kebab) served with roasted potatoes

Assorted Moroccan pastries

DESSERTS

Bastilla – crispy leaves of pastry topped with vanilla cream and sprinkled with toasted almonds

Marrakesh Delight – fresh fruit salad topped with mint ice cream, toasted almonds and orange blossom water

Moroccan Symphony – Assorted Moroccan baklavas

 

Definitely try the Chicken Bastilla.  So good!  If you want to try a lot of things, the Royal Feast is a fabulous option.  If you’re on the dining plan, you can choose this option with a slight up-charge.  Last I checked, it was about $7.  Definitely worth it for how much you get to try!  The Moroccan Symphony for dessert allows you to sample several Baklava and was the best dessert on the menu, in my opinion.

And!  Not only do you get delicious food here, you get entertainment.  There is a belly dancer that performs for you, and after she does her set, she invites people down to dance with her.  Sometimes adults, and quite often children.  The children are absolutely adorable to watch, and if you have a kid who likes to dance like mine does, this is a great experience for them.  She performs once during each hour, usually not until after noon during lunch seatings, and after 5pm for dinner seatings.  This isn’t a meal to rush through, so do plan to visit this restaurant when you aren’t feeling the need to rush right out to catch a particular show or ride.

Have you eaten at Restaurant Marrakesh?  Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

 

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