Life's Sweet Journey

Friday, May 26, 2017

Is Listening to a Timeshare Presentation Worth the Perks?


We've all gotten the calls before; the ones saying that "we are from such-an-such timeshare and can offer you a next-to-free stay, at one of our gorgeous resorts, if you just come listen to a two hour presentation on our amenities". Our first answer was always "thanks, but no thanks!" Until one evening it wasn't. 

A little back story to this is that they tend to call me, or more so I tend to be the one who picks up the phone for numbers I don't know. The person on the other end of the line then tries to get me to commit, I question it and think it might actually be a good deal and then go to ask Babe and he says, "no, hang up!" So then it takes me another 5-10 minutes to try to get off the phone and I have now wasted my time. Fast forward a bit and sweet Babe actually answers the phone to a number he doesn't know and a young woman (at least she sounded young) starts in on the offer. Typically, he would hang up pretty quickly, but I guess he let her get pretty far in, because a few minutes later he's calling me into the office (I was in the living room) and asks me if we should do it. I, of course, am thinking,  "what the actual heck?! You give me such a hard time about it and you now look where we're at! I mean, I don't know? Sure, why not?! Let's just try it!" Apparently the girl on the other end of the line just seemed so thankful he was even letting her talk, and hadn't hung up on her or berated her for calling, that he almost felt like he needed to say yes just to give her a chance to make a sale. At this point he had it on speaker phone and when she asked if he wanted to hear about the option of a cruise add on and he replied with, "sure, why not?!" she got so flustered and her voice rose to such an octave that I thought she might have hugged hum through the phone if she could. Needless to say that when we actually agreed to book it I think she might have cried. **Side note: I have a friend who once worked for a call center, before quitting two weeks later because people would be so mean when she called that she would break out in hives. I know those calls can be frustrating, but if you can't say anything nice, it's probably better to just hang up!

Anyways, that was the long-winded version of how we ultimately ended up saying yes. We figured, even if we hated it, at least we tried it once. Now that we are on the other side of the whole experience here are our actual thoughts... 

Did we think that the offered trip was worth it for having to listen to someone try to sell us a timeshare? Our answer: YES! Granted, this was from our personal views of one experience (with Hilton Grand Vacations), but we found it overall completely worth it. Hilton stayed true to their word and our presentation lasted two hours, beginning to end (not including travel time), and they didn't force us into staying past the time to try to keep selling us once we had still said "no". Our hotel was gorgeous, with an amazing view, and they didn't contact us again the rest of our trip once we had left the presentation, which I was worried might happen with "no" answers.
Our only room shot, while trying out the new bluetooth camera stand, as we spent a lot of time outdoors and forgot to document; the room was really nice though, with a beautiful view, jetted tub and kitchenette. 

Planning for the Presentation
- wear comfortable clothing: you will be sitting for a long time, so bring a jacket or something to keep you cozy
- we were provided with food and drink when there; light to moderate snacks, coffee, tea, juice, water... which could substitute breakfast if desired
- have your "no" ready; we started out saying no, our sales guy then told us, "well my job is to spend the next two hours trying to change that", but if you know you want to walk out without a timeshare you HAVE TO stick to your guns no matter what he says
- go into it with a "this is just a learning experience" mindset; while we ultimately stuck to our no, I thought it was interesting learning about how it ran and I loved getting to see their model rooms
- schedule as early into the trip (and day) as possible; you don't want the presentation to be the way you end your trip. We did ours at 10am the 2nd day in and had the whole rest of the day, plus 2 more, ahead of us (Vegas for Outdoor Lovers post coming soon)
- tips for saying no: pick a designated "talker" (this should be the person better at a stone faced no), have the other person say as little as possible, don't give any leverage by getting excited over certain talking points, keep a very flat/ business like manner (any inflection in your voice will give them something to go off of)



Pros Vs Cons
Pro- You get an awesome trip for a fraction of the cost!
Con- If you suck at saying no, you might get suckered! Honestly, I would not even do it if there is not at least one person in your party who can stick to a firm "no". I knew we were saying no, I didn't even want it after listening to the spiel, but I can be so bad at saying "no" that I might have considered it if Babe hadn't been the rock! And your sales person will read that; our guy started directing a lot of the "perks" at me. "You can use your points for shopping! You can use them for spa treatments!...". Thankfully I don't like shopping, but I do enjoy a good massage and he caught that. I finally just stopped talking, and zoned out, so that he had no more leverage on my end and had to go back to trying to convince Andrew.
Pro- If it is a reputable company they will stick to their promises. If they know they aren't going to sell you they won't waste their time; there were plenty more people waiting behind us.
Con- The shuttle; I get car sick, so the shuttle back to our hotel, the Elara (the presentation was at another one of their resorts), was torture. Given that they weren't that far away from each other I might have chosen to walk.
Con- Depending on where you are going the airfare can be crazy; make sure when you are on that initial phone call that you factor in an estimated airfare cost.
Pro- If you enjoy traveling, it's a great way to see places for less! Had we decided not to tack on the cruise addition we would have only paid $250 for a 3 night stay in Vegas; we paid an additional $300 and now have a cruise voucher for a Royal Caribbean Bahamas cruise (which we can upgrade if desired).

So, AS LONG AS YOU CAN SAY NO, it's totally worth it. Should you sit down and decide the time share itself might be a good deal, that's a whole other story. We can't vouch for if that's worth it or not, maybe you could tell us?! But at the end of the day we would definitely listen to another time share spiel in order to get a discounted vacation!
*Note: This is our personal experience of one presentation with a well known company. People in our shuttle back to the hotel told us some horror stories about ones they had sat through where they were kept for hours, so just be wary of which company you go through and what they tell you initially.


How about you?
Have you ever sat through a time share presentation? What were your thoughts? 
Do you currently own time share options? Do you think they are worth it? 

Friday, May 19, 2017

DC Planning and a FriYAY Giveaway!

Happy FriYAY!
We made it! In just a few short hours the weekend will officially begin! 
I figured I would kick off the celebrating with some 5 on Friday fun! 


* Why not start it all off with some GIVEAWAY happiness! There is one day left to enter the 'Adventure Fuel' Giveaway that I am hosting, over on Instagram. Head over and share your upcoming adventure plans with me to be entered to win this mug and a $10 Dunkin gift card! 

* We are planning a trip to DC the first weekend of June. Babe has to go for work and this is the first time that I will be getting to tack on the weekend before and go with! He has gone just about once a year for the last 7 years, so to say I'm excited is an understatement. We have a few things on our list of "to-dos": brunch at the W, strolling the National Mall, maybe a trip to see the pandas, a visit to the post office museum aka "hello PostSecret exhibit", but that's about it so far. We haven't really begun planning, those are just on my list. Anything we need to add when we sit down to really talk it through?! Any favorite spots for lunch or coffee stops we need to hit to keep us fueled?! We will be there less than 48 hours so we will be trying to pack in a lot! 

* I recently started a new job, teaching English to kids in China, through VIPKID. I am still working at the church currently and also nannying, but this is a huge step to maybe getting us on the road. The great thing is, I can work anywhere there is wifi! I can also set my own schedule (for the most part- because of the time difference I can only work mornings and evenings) and work as little, or as much, as I want. I have been having a lot of fun with it!! If you enjoy working with kids and are interested in finding a legitimate work from home opportunity, VIPKID is currently hiring. It is 30 minute classes, one-on-one with a student, and the curriculum is all preset and provided. If you use my referral link you will get a sign-on bonus if you get hired. I do have an education background, but it is not required. If you do have one it will just help you to start at a higher hourly rate, but I am pretty sure that the least you will start out at is $15/hr. If you have any questions you are welcome to email me! 

* This weekend is going to be cray! Seriously, our weekend is jam-packed starting tonight and going forward through Sunday. It's all good things, but I am sure by Sunday night my feet are going to be praying for reprieve. We are heading to St. Cloud tonight for some time with my bro/sis-in-law, tomorrow we have my nieces dress rehearsal, tomorrow night we have a fundraiser event for Agua Viva Serves (want to big on auction items? Check them out here), I work Sunday morning (not typical), then have a meeting for a team I am leading to Kenya at the end of the Summer (YAY KENYA), then it's back to work again for our evening services! Around 9pm Sunday I will be able to kick my piggies up again. It will be a whirlwind of a weekend, but I am not sad about it in the least! So many good things, with so many great people!! 

* I am still loving Chasing Slow as my morning devotional! Seriously, this girl speaks right to my soul! It may be that it's also been a really long time since I have done any kind of morning quiet-time routine and just needed it, or that I typically have a hard time with anything non-fiction, but I am just completely engrossed! Any books you are loving lately?! 

That's about it for my Friday! 
What's going on in your world?! 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Great RV Camping Spots near Orlando and Central Florida

As weekend warriors camping near Orlando, Fl it could sometimes be hard to snag a great RV spot. Looking for off the beaten path campsites or booking well in advance are helpful. Here are a few of our the great RV camping spots we love within 2.5 hours of Central Florida and the greater Orlando area.

Great RV Campsites Near Orlando and Central Florida


1.) Moss Park in Orlando

Great RV Camping Sites Near Orlando and Central Florida
Moss Park is actually an Orange County Park, but it is one of our favorite places to go when we just need a quick getaway. We have gone for one night when we just need to shut the world away for a bit. We have spent full weekends there for Babe’s triathlons. It’s a beautiful, quiet park, with the camping tucked back away from the public access part of the park. There is a beautiful lake, both for boating and other water activities (the campground has it’s own boat dock if you have a boat to bring), as well as a roped off spot for swimming. There is also great hiking, both in Moss park and at the adjacent Split Oak Mitigation Park through an access trail. It’s only $18 per night if you are an Orange County resident ($23 otherwise) and only about 20 minutes from our house, often with open spaces, even last minute. For those from out of state or further away in Florida, looking for a great place to camp that is close to all the theme parks, it’s a great alternative to some of the pricey spots out closer to all the craziness. It’s quieter and beautiful and not a bad drive into the parks at all (about 30 minutes). (Moss Park YouTube Review

2.) Rainbow Springs State Park (1 hr 40 min from Orlando)

Great RV Camping Sites Near Orlando and Central Florida

Rainbow Springs State Park is one of our favorite spots when we want a more relaxing weekend! Known for its river tubing, it is a great place to go when you really just want to kick your feet back. It can be really hard to get a spot in the summer, so this is definitely a spot you need to plan ahead for (we booked 6 months in advance), but it is totally worth it as a spot to beat the Florida heat! There is a tram that runs from the campground to the river pull out, but you do have to pay $15 to use that service (also includes a tube). To find out how we tubed for free, as well as more in-depth details of the park and amenities, check out our full post on Rainbow Springs State Park

3.) Highlands Hammock State Park (for Camping with Kids)

**Highlands Hammock State Park (a little less than 2 hours from Orlando)
Great RV Camping Sites Near Orlando and Central Florida
Highlands Hammock State Park was such a fun spot! Though the campground was very crowded when we went, and we found the spots to be a little too close together, the park is simply stunning. The trees there are thousands of years old and huge, some you can even stand inside of. I felt like I was walking through a scene in Jurassic Park! The trails are all really unique and very neat. We loved the catwalk trail, with the cut off boardwalk that ran through the swamp. The park also included a tram ride through ranger only park land, a museum all about the creation of the state park system, and a craft morning for kids (select weekends).

4.) A Historical City Getaway- Faver-Dykes State Park (1.5 hrs from Orlando)

We had been trying to find a spot to stay near St. Augustine, so that we could go explore the city and the history and eat all the yummy foods.  Anastasia State Park (just 5 minutes from St. Augustine) can be really hard to get into. Luckily, Faver-Dykers isn’t that much further; an easy 20 minute drive. It’s not only a convenient spot to get close enough to spend the day exploring St. Augustine (check out this post to see how we spent our 10 hours in the city), but the park itself is also great. It’s right off the interstate, but tucked far enough away that you would never know. There is a gorgeous river to spend the day paddle boarding on and a few fun trails to explore! The wifi is patchy, but that just makes it all the better in my opinion, because you can truly unplug. The spots are spacious and wooded and very well kept! (Faver-Dykes State Park YouTube Review

5.) Fort De Soto County Park (2 hours from Orlando)- great beachside getaway

Fort De Soto was actually the first place we ever took Flo, and we loved it so much, we were back just a year later to enjoy it with friends. The spots are great; most of them right on the water. From your spot it’s a super quick car (or bike) ride to the beach. They also have the old forts to explore, as well as a museum that discusses the history of the forts and the park. Babe and I love exploring old forts and ruins and learning more about the history of Florida (well, he loves reading all the signs and learning all the facts; I love exploring all the nooks and crannies and pretending like I was living in the forts back when they were actively used). There is also a ferry that you can take to Egmont Key, an island accessible only by boat, for a day of more fort exploring fun, a more private beach experience, and the possibility of wading with the stingrays!

6.) Manatee Springs State Park (2 hrs 15 mins from Orlando)- Perfect for Paddling

Manatee Springs State Park, though the furthest on the list, is a great spot to do a little river paddling. Manatee Springs has an outdoor outfitter that you can rent canoes or kayaks from right there in the park. Anderson's Outdoor Adventures will provide you with an rental equipment (or you can bring your own) and they will then take you up river by van so that you are paddling back to the park with the current. It's a ten mile paddle back to Manatee Springs from where they drop you off so it is still a good full morning of paddling, you just don't have to fight the currents! If you leave early enough in the morning you can be back in time to get some super yummy BBQ that they make right there on property. We each got a meal, but they are so big you could definitely split one between 2 people. They also have the MOST AMAZING SWEET TEA that I have ever had (and I like to think that I have had some good ones)!! There is also a swimming/ snorkeling spot in the park, as well as a system of underwater trails for anyone who is scuba certified. 

If you liked this post be sure to also check out campgrounds and RV parks in Orlando for 10 more great spots throughout Florida! 

Honorable Mentions
Though we prefer to stay at state or county parks, because of cheaper rates and having everything right there (hiking, outdoor activities...) these two Thousand Trails resorts get honorable mentions. Even though the price per night is a bit more they were super clean, had full sewer hoookups and great resort amenities! 
* Crystal River RV Resort- right on the water with the ability to rent pontoons and in close to proximity to being able to swim with the manatees!! 
* Clover Leaf RV Resort- We stayed here and then drove over to Weeki Wachee for a day with the mermaids!! 


These are just some of our favorite, easily accessible spots, from here in Orlando. There are still so many to explore and we can't wait to do just that! What are your favorite spots for a weekend in the woods?! Any good camping near you we need to check out? 

What adventures have you been up to? 
Try a new restaurant in your own backyard? 
Taken a day trip in your home state? Journeyed to far off lands? 

Link up below and let's travel together!! 

~On the 2nd Tuesday of every month I will be sharing a new travel post and would love to see where you have been exploring!
~Any linked posts will be pinned under Travel Tuesday on my Pinterest account. 
~Please leave a little love on the post directly before yours and then anywhere else you like! That way we can all grow this community together :) 
~Not many other rules, as I am not a huge fan of those sorts of things! Just add any travel related link and I encourage you to peek around and see where everyone else has been. 
~Feel free to grab the image from the sidebar and add it to your post so others know where to link up. 
~I will also be sharing my favorite post from the month before. April's fave was from Anne of In Residence, because her trip to Malta looked absolutely stunning and has me itching to visit! 


Friday, April 28, 2017

FriYAY Fun! Life Lately!

HAPPY FriYAY!!
I feel like Friday has become post day for me, but hey, what can I say?! I LOVE Friday! So why not share that with the world! I'm joining in for some more 5 on Friday fun with a little peek at my world recently... 

1.) My bestie left and moved to another state and I am sad, sad, but we did get some good quality time in before she left with a stay at Disney's Swan and Dolphin. Staying there had been on my Disney bucket list, because it had been one of my grandparent's favorite resorts, not to mention one of Disney's original hotels. Though now managed through Marriott, it was still a magical Disney evening! We dined, we lounged and we soaked up every last bit of fun together that we could! 

2.) Next weekend we head towards the Florida Panhandle for a stay at Torreya State Park. We had originally planned it for last weekend, when I didn't have to work Sunday, but had to switch to this weekend. We will have a little bit of a shorter window, as we will have to leave early on Sunday for me to make it back in time, but looking forward to journeying a little further from home. Any North Florida tips on things we should do? 

3.) I have been reading Chasing Slow recently and y'all?! You NEED to read this. So, so good! I usually have a really hard time getting through anything non-fiction. I grab a devotional or inspirational, self-helpie book with the best of intentions, then I get maybe a couple pages in and can go no further. They just can't keep my interest. Chasing Slow though?! Totally different story. Maybe it's because I feel like she is speaking my kind of language; speaking about a found love for less, talking to my heart about the letting go of the fast, rat-raced "American Dream" for a slower, life-lived journey. Maybe it's her story-like, laid back writing style, but whatever it is, I can't get enough. If you find me quoting strange things soon, that's what it's from... "The thing about the American dream, about marital bliss, about any rewarding pursuit in this world, is this: it isn't a given. It's a gift. When you forget this, when you forget to handle this gift with care, you will see that the American dream isn't a dream at all. It is a nightmare, and you have been thrashing through it, your twisted sheets a noose. And you question whether you can live with the snooze button." 

"We are young and a little dumb. Mostly, we are just young enough to think we aren't dumb at all." 

"Sometimes the most holy thing we can do is to be still. To sit down and twirl the fork and eat the pasta we're given." 

Seriously you guys?! This book (on sale on Amazon right now) is a must for any of those looking to slow down and wondering if less really is more... spoiler alert: it is!! 

4.) I tried Bulletproof coffee recently and let me just say, "game changer!" I started with just the basics: grass-fed butter, coconut oil and added a little creamer and almond milk, then blended it all up. Amazing, frothy goodness!!! It really did seem to help with my mental clarity and held me off until lunch. I now add a little bit of protein powder (just a smidge) and I "bit the bullet" (pun totally intended) and bought the official Bulletproof coffee Brain Octane Oil. I will let you know if I find it to be any more "powerful" than regular Publix coconut oil. 
5.) Because it's Friday and because I am trying to be productive today and plan all our upcoming adventures and do all the things, I thought it was time for a little Sweet Journey Shop perk. You can head over to Etsy and use the code FINALLYFRIDAY for free shipping through Monday! 


Happy Adventuring All!! 
Any fun plans for your weekend?! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Camping with Kids// Adventure Island Fun in Tampa, Florida

Happy Friday!! 
Let me say it again! 
HAPPY! FRIDAY!!! 

I love Friday in all it's end of week glory!! Babe and I were originally heading off to the Florida panhandle today for a weekend of camping a little further away than usual, since I don't have to work this Sunday, but y'all plans changed, because big things are happening. My best friend is moving away!! Far, far away!! To another state, away from me and this is her last weekend here! So I will be spending every last drop of time I can with her. Plus it should be noted that she is making my Disney dreams come true and we will be having a girls night at the Swan and Dolphin and sending her away in style. I am all kinds of excited for her and, given that I plan to visit her very soon after she moves, AND given that if I have anything to say about it we will be on the road, as full-time RVers, sooner rather than later, I am trying not to be so forlorn about her leaving. But given that the only time we have really ever spent apart was during our 4 (ok, 5) years of college this is going to take some adjusting, so to distract my little heart I figured it was time to share our most recent camping trip! 

A few weekends ago Babe and I actually took a camping trip of a much different caliber... camping with kids! 
We took my two nieces to Lazydays RV Resort, near Tampa, where we actually purchased Flo. They had given us two nights of free camping at their resort so we figured we would utilize it with the girls, since they have all the fun amenities like the pool and playground (and looking at RVs for sale)!! 

My youngest niece had been begging to take a trip in Flo (girl after my own heart) and so I told her we would take her and her girl cousin around her birthday. Y'all?! She was so stoked! Told everyone she could that she was doing that for her birthday, so the weekend before she turned 6 we loaded them up (with an early school release and all) and set out for big adventures!! 

While I would have been fine to have spent the weekend at a state park, enjoying hiking trails and nature at it's finest, it was actually really nice to be at Lazydays. With the site voucher it worked out well!! We got there midday Friday and spent the first hour or so exploring the RVs for sale over at the dealership (it's connected to the campground). Though this part had originally been for me, the girls LOVED it; going in and out of the RVs they wanted to see, hopping on and off the bunk beds! We then headed off to take a dip in the pool, which was really nice. It's screened in and heated, so the lingering April chill was nothing! Plus they had a hot tub for this tired Aunt Mel, not to mention an attached bar. I love the peace and quiet of a state park, but I could get use to hot tubs and margaritas!! Considering camping with kids is far louder than camping without them, it was definitely a nice treat!! 

Babe had decided we should do something a little extra special since it was also a birthday treat, so we looked up things to do in Tampa with kids and decided on Adventure Island (Busch Gardens water park). I will admit that I was a little hesitant. Being Orlando born and bred, anytime I go to a non-Disney water park I am usually sorely disappointed. This time was a far different story... 
This BBQ food truck was a great lunch option!! 
Adventure Island is AWESOME!! Seriously, I actually think I preferred it to any of the Disney water parks (and for this #DisneyFreak that's saying A LOT)! It was clean, well kept up and super great for kids and adults alike. We got there when the park opened and got a spot right away. It was really nice not having to fight over chairs! While the park did fill up around noon, we basically got on-and-off each slide for the first 2-3 hours. It was so much less crowded than the Disney parks (even once it seemed full) and it also didn't seem like such a trek just to get to the top of the slide. My favorite area (which is where had put our stuff originally) is right where you first walk in. There are 5 different slides, coming out of a waterfall structure, that all spill out into the same pool. The girls were able to go by themselves, if Babe and I wanted to take a minute to relax on the lounge chairs. The waterfall feature was really cool too! You can enter the slides through where the waterfall runs into the pool, making it feel like you are climbing a real waterfall. 

There were tons of other slides in the park- some newer and some my husband remembered from when he was a kid (his dad lives in the Tampa area)- so it was fun to get a mix of the original and more updated fun! I LOVED the toboggan ride they had! It was scary and full of fun for this adrenaline-loving heart of mine! I did it a handful of times, as I could not figure out how to skid all the way to the end without falling off. The last time (after coaching from Babe, "Lean forward all the way down, then lean back once you hit the water") I finally managed to stay on until I hit the end of the water. Mission accomplished!! 

One other super great perk of Adventure Island was that there were not many slides that both girls couldn't do; praise the Good Lord!! Makaylin (the youngest and birthday girl) was not too happy when she couldn't ride things her cousin could, but there were only about 2 slides she couldn't do. Some of the more intense slides simply required that the smaller kids either be with an adult or wear a life vest. If you have a kid (or ever take a kid) who loves to "do it all" you know what a relief this is!! She was able to do most of the things we all could do and we didn't have to worry as much about having her upset that she couldn't ride something. 

Adventure Island couldn't have been a better pick for our full day of fun on Saturday!! We shut the park down and headed back to the campground, where we actually spent even more time in our suits by taking another dip in the pool. 

While we made dinner the girls played Go-Fish and traipsed around the grounds. We then passed out in bed with tired bodies and happy hearts! Which was better than the first night, as we did have a little "snaffu" over the sleeping arrangements and one girl taking up too much room on the jack-knife-couch-turned-bed, so that we somehow all ended up in our not-completely-Queen-sized-bed during the first night. Given though how things can go when doing anything with kids I will say we came away pretty unscathed! 

I won't say which child took up all the room haha...
 she gets it naturally though y'all, it took me three years of marriage to stop sleeping sideways!
Now just imagine that, for at least an hour, there was also an Uncle Andrew in here! He didn't last long obviously! 

Sunday morning we woke up and made a pancake breakfast and then the anxiously awaited moment arrived... the girls getting to help dump the tank! You guys?! The amount of wonderment built up inside those two little girls about the idea of all their poo sitting under Flo, and the fact they were going to get to watch it get flushed out, was something that I can't really even describe. The first night, they literally had their heads inside the toilet trying to see if they could figure out where it went and we took a flashlight-lit field trip outside to explore the undercarriage of the trailer so that they could see the tank all of "it" was sitting in. Thankfully each spot had it's own septic spot, so that we weren't holding up a line of rigs waiting to dump while the girls "oohed and ahhhed" over the whole mess- literally! (Side note: the sites were really nice. They were paved, which kept Flo cleaner given the amount of feet trekking through her, and came with a picnic table) We then, sadly, loaded up and headed home. 

It made my soul so excited to see them loving the outdoors and getting so pumped about all things RV life!! When they said, "we love Flo! We want to live in Flo!" I simply replied "me too girls, me too!!" 

How about you? 
Ever been camping with kids? Any fun stories to share?