5 Tips for Slackers Visiting Pandora at Disney World

If there are no Pandora Fast Passes available for your Disney World vacation, don’t worry. Here’s a strategy for riding BOTH Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage in 2 hours!

“Did you book your FastPass+ yet?” My sister-in-law asked this question every time we talked about our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. “Nope. I’ll get to it,” was my standard reply. When I finally opened the My Disney Experience app (while riding on the Magical Express from the airport to the Animal Kingdom Lodge), there was no availability for any of the popular rides, including Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey in the new Pandora – The World of AVATAR.

When visiting Pandora without a FastPass, be sure to catch the Tree of Life Awakening in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Watching the Tree of Life is a popular nighttime activity in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/The Open Suitcase LLC

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How to Save $27 in 7 Minutes

Baffled by travel reward programs? You’re not alone. If you’re looking for one that’s super easy to use and offers immediate savings, try AutoSlash when booking your next vacation car rental. It checks available offers for you and saves you the hassle of shopping around for the best deal.

Save money on car rentals by using AutoSlash.

I approach every travel rewards program with caution. AutoSlash was very easy to use.

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What’s Shutter Speed Got to Do With It? How to Take Better Photos.

Want to take better photos? The key is practice, practice, practice. And, if you get the chance to practice in the company of a pro, do it! Taking a photo tour with a legit photographer gives you the chance to ask all kinds of dumb questions and to correct one or two things that will immediately improve your shots.

Photo tips for beginners include choosing the right subject, like this red, rusty tractor.

Wandering around the Donaldson Farm, I kept waiting for the big tractors to talk to me as if I was in a Disney cartoon. Photo: The Open Suitcase LLC

Getting the chance to bum around with a professional photographer with an all access pass is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And you don’t have to have tons of equipment or years of experience to have a great time and to learn to take better photos. I self-identify as a beginner-intermediate when it comes to using my DSLR camera, meaning I still have to think really, really hard about whether the aperture needs to be big or small to get a crisply focused background. Continue reading

Lonely Planet Book Review: “You Only Live Once”

Looking for a great gift for someone who needs a little inspiration? Or maybe that someone is you. “You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us” is a new publication from Lonely Planet. It’s not a traditional travel guide. Instead, through a series of photographs, brief essays, and infographics, it introduces readers to a world of enriching experiences. It should come with a warning because you’ll want to walk out your front door and never look back.


skywalk-lonely-planet-yolo

The book features stunning photographs of people, places, and things to stimulate your wanderlust. Photo: You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us. © Lonely Planet 2016

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When Bad Things Happen to Good Travelers

Savannah-dawnI need to make a confession.

It’s a bit embarrassing, since I’m a travel writer, consider myself an organized and experienced adventurer, and routinely dole out advice to others. But, here goes…

During my last vacation, I lost my rental car.
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