9.18.2020

Henry's Potential New School

Earlier today we had a virtual tour with Henry's potential new school in Germany.  It was fantastic meeting face to face with someone I had been emailing with a bit, and seeing the beautiful school building! It's a newer building with big classrooms, bright spaces, science labs, technology labs, and a big gym.  They answered lots of our questions and we just got a better feel for everything.  We will definitely be applying once the visas come through and it's all more official!

9.14.2020

A Running List of Things We Want to Do Before Leaving NYC

These are things we want to do before we leave NYC... we've either done them before, but not in a long time, or it's just something we've never done before!

  • Visit the Met & Cloisters
  • Visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum
  • Visit the MOMA
  • See the Oculus train station 
  • Visit Governor's Island
  • Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge & get pizza on the other side
  • Walk the Highline
  • Stroll through Central Park
  • Visit the Tenement Museum
  • Go to the Math Museum
  • Socrate's 
  • Eat Chinese food in Chinatown
  • Eat Italian food in Little Italy
  • Big Nick's
  • Jefferson Market Garden
  • Top of a building - Rock, Empire, WTC
  • Battery Park carrousel 
  • Liberty Island
  • UN Tour
  • Walk through Grand Central
  • Walk McDougal Street and walk through Union Square
  • If we are still here, see the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center and do all the Christmas things!


9.12.2020

We are moving to Germany!

10 years ago we landed in NYC...now it's time for a new adventure!


We have been chatting for a while now about where to move, or if we should stay in NYC.  We absolutely love New York City, so it's a hard place to leave and every other city that we chatted about and considered felt like settling.  It just wasn't right.  Until this opportunity to move to Germany came up.


It all happened because I saw an acquaintance online spending a few months in Mexico with her children as the summer ended and the school year started.  This is likely possible because she is either homeschooling, or doing virtual school - I am not sure which.  And I thought, "Hey, we could do that!" After-all we just spent over 100 days in Pennsylvania during the peak of the pandemic here in NYC and Henry did great in school, what is stopping us from going further?


Where is the one place we'd like to go?


GERMANY!


Well...the borders are closed to the U.S. due to COVID-19 and the United States being a complete dumpster fire when battling this pandemic (don’t get me started!), but perhaps we can still get work visas?  Turns out that yes, we can!  Maybe we can get a short-term assignment!


Joe took a look at the job board and low and behold, his same position was open in Germany as what he does now in NYC.  Should he inquire about a transfer?  This wasn't a short-term assignment.  Sure, why not! Wouldn't hurt, we can always say no.  We have inquired before for Germany and it didn’t pan out, we wouldn’t know if this one would either.


Long story short, they responded and wanted him to apply.  Soon he had an interview set up, which went great and he was formerly offered a position.  After quite a lot of research, endless discussion, and number crunching it boiled down to a pretty simple fact that if we didn't take advantage of this, we'd regret it.


So we are taking advantage!


The position is mostly virtual, Joe won’t need to be in the office regularly.  We can choose where we want to live within Germany, as long as it has access to trains and planes so he can visit clients, once they start doing that in the EU. (due to COVID-19, they aren't visiting clients currently)  We naturally started considering large cities, as we are very comfortable with NYC and love what large cities have to offer.  Munich was the top of the list for a couple weeks.  We looked at apartments online, watched videos about life in Munich, and even contacted the international schools, and a school that offered a German intensive language class for non-German speakers.


However, the more we researched, the more we hit a few roadblocks.  First, apartments in Munich are very expensive.  By NYC standards, they are more affordable, but not drastically.  We could manage it, but the budget would be more limited.  Second, and more importantly, only ONE school had ONE seat open for an 8th grade student.  This school was one I couldn’t find many reviews of and it was an expensive international school.  The spot could disappear before we even arrived in Germany.


So while we still considered Munich, we also started to research other cities.  I have friends in Nuremberg and already knew there was an international school in the nearby Erlangen.  So that was worth a look, of course!  The rent was about HALF that of Munich, and the international school was more affordable.  The international school has space available and looks fantastic.  Erlangen also had a youth baseball team - which is highly important to this family!


The more we researched and discussed, it became evident that Erlangen was the right fit for us.  We made that decision official yesterday!  The area of Erlangen, Nuremberg and F├╝rth is all well connected by trains so we are a bit open to housing as long as the school is easily reachable by train, walking or bike as well as the train station, or a bus to the airport.


We are excited and nervous.  Ready for adventure.

2.04.2013

Water Park Weenie

Years ago, when I was about 11 years old I almost died.  I have no idea who saved me, but I can still remember her voice.

I was in the wave pool at Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells with my good friend from school.  She was a strong swimmer, I was not.  Suddenly the waves came on full force, she knew enough to swim underwater, I didn't...I tried to fight the waves but they just kept rushing over my head and I was swallowing a ton of water and couldn't keep my head above.  I was screaming for help, but I'm sure my screams were drowned out amongst the shrieks and laughter of a very full pool in the middle of summer.

I somehow made my way over to the side of the pool where there was a bar you could hold onto and ride the waves, I did this, grabbing with all my might - seeing about a dozen other people holding the bar...I went under and came back up and NO ONE was there.  I was alone again, still going under, still screaming for help.  I tried to climb up the wall, but it was tile-there was no hope.  I tried to get my legs on top of the bar, so I could push myself out, but it wouldn't work.

I was scared.  And wondering why and how the life guard, that I could see just feet away, couldn't see me.

Then I felt hands around my waist and a voice asking if I needed help.  I gasped out a "yes!" and she told me to hold onto the wall, which I already was.  As the waves came and bounced off the back wall, with the momentum she would lift me up and move me slightly closer to the ladder.  After a few minutes we made it, my friend was behind me and literally had to push me up the ladder - my arms were incredibly sore.  I was dazed, she forced me to sit down in a lounge chair and gather myself.

After a few minutes I was okay, had my breath back and we moved onto the lazy river...for several hours!  Then I braved a few more slides and even went into the second wave pool--but only up to my ankles!  The rest of the day was fine, and fun!

Years went by and I never really went on water slides, they just weren't in my world.  I wasn't scared of the water at all, but did avoid wave pools-they did bring on some fear.

In my adult life I started to travel...and with that came water slides at various hotels.  Joe would go down them, but nope-I'm good, no thanks!  Sometimes I would brave it once, and scream all the way down.  Once was more than enough.

I have no idea if this fear stemmed back to my drowning incident, or what happened.  All I know is that I once was not afraid, but became very scared of water slides in my adult life.  Strap me into the biggest roller coaster and I'll do it - 



But a water slide?  Nope!

I had ZERO desire to go to the Disney water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.  I thought "maybe we will go someday when Henry is older." but I was in no rush to get there.

Then I became a travel agent, with a niche of Disney vacations.  I went on a tour of Blizzard Beach.  It looked fun.  Hmmm...maybe I could enjoy a few things while the boys played.  Or just sit in the sun with a book.  Maybe...

Then I spoke to a Disney friend who's career is in water parks.  She spoke some logic into me.  Things I KNEW, but I just needed a professional to say them.  It's pretty much impossible to flip out of the slides...which is exactly what I feared would happen to me.  She sees incident reports from all ove the world, and has never, ever seen one where someone flipped out.  Okay.  It makes sense.  Science and all.

We went on our Disney Cruise last June and I braved my first water slide in a long time on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.  I ENJOYED it.  Yes, I screamed, but I actually liked it!



Then in October we purchased Walt Disney World Annual Passes, which include visits to the water parks.  It was time to brave them.

I was nervous, don't get me wrong.  But I was determined to conquer my fear!  We opted to visit Typhoon Lagoon on this trip, since I hadn't seen it yet. 

 


We arrived in the late morning, and easily made our way through the park to find a place to plant our things and call "home" for the day.

Past the seats in the sun...

Ah, yes, a nice shady location with plenty of sand for Henry to dig in.  You see, he inherited my "water park weenie" gene.  I knew he wouldn't be braving any slides that day!


We settled in and promptly went off to find some sand toys for Henry.  We decided not to walk, but to use the lazy river ("Castaway Creek") as our highway to the gift shop we passed earlier.


Henry was a bit frightened, but eventually settled in.  We were able to easily get off at our stop, and then back on to continue the float back to our home spot.


This lazy river does have a few water sprays and a cave too!

Back at our sandy spot, we started to dig and create.  We had purchased a great castle shaped bucket and shovel for just $5.


After digging for quite a while I went off to the Shark Reef, which is a snorkeling lagoon right in the water park!  Now this I was excited about!  Just the month before I had been on a cruise with some girlfriends and went snorkeling for the first time in Grand Cayman.  I LOVED it.  I was eager to experience it all again.  The Shark Reef does not have an additional charge, all equipment is included!

And yes, swimming with sharks doesn't even phase me, but water slides do...shush. :)

You are given fairly detailed instructions.  There are sharks in the tank you swim through, so no kicking, and just keep moving across.


A shark!

The entire experience is quite short, but still very, very enjoyable!  Plus, if you've never been, it's a great way to try it for the first time.

After my Shark Reef experience we went off to find some lunch.  There are a few eateries within the park with a decent variety of basics.  We opted for

Gourmet!

With our stomachs full, we started to walk back to our shady spot in the sand, but we passed the big daddy of all water slides...


Crush 'n' Gusher.

Now, for those of you who don't know, it's a water slide/roller coaster.  I have been on one of these before and literally screeeeeeeeched the entire way, but after it was said and done, enjoyed it.  With my newfound bravery, would I enjoy this one even more?  I had to try it.

Joe went first.  Henry and I hung out here.


Not a bad view.

On Joe's return he was all smiles, he really enjoyed it!  Now my turn.

Gulp.

I was brave, I marched right up into the line, got my inner tube and made my way up to the single riders slide.  The wait was about 15 minutes...and in that time I would watch each guest wait and then start their journey.  Watching them was the worst.  I was nervous!  Holy crappers.  I got to the front and the Cast Member asked if I was ready...I was honest "No, I'm not! But I have to be!" they just laughed.

I felt like I was in a daze as I climbed into the slide wondering why the heck I had to do this...because I had to.  I had to get over this fear!

I let out a scream as I jetted off, and I continued to scream the eeeeeentire way down...but I did it!  And I came out laughing!  It was FUN!  I wanted to try again, but the line had grown considerably and now that I had my water slide mojo on, I had to get to some other slides!

I wanted to do a ton more, but my scared little Henry wasn't too keen on staying in the park too much longer, so we went back to the shady spot to dig and relax - and then I snuck off again...this time to the Storm Slides.  There are three slides to choose from, I felt the nerves again, but was more excited than scared.


I LOVED this one!  I wanted to go try all three slides, but knew it was almost time to go.

I will say, these slides aren't rated very high on the thrill list for most folks - they are perfect for a water slide weenie though!

Back in the sand we packed up our bags and I was gushing about how much fun I had that day.

I, Brook Wozniak, had fun at a water park.

Amazing.

In March we return to Walt Disney World and I look forward to trying Blizzard Beach this time!  We'll see if I'm brave enough to stick a toe in the wave pool this time.

A few more pictures as I wrap this up...

Info sign

Wait times board

Themeing (of course it has themeing, it's Disney!)

Mini-donuts!

Mini-donut in chocolate sauce, even better!

Overall, if you are a water slide weenie, don't worry!  You'll still enjoy Disney's water parks.  There are several tame slides (but there are some crazy thrilling ones too), pools to enjoy and lovely soft sand!

1.30.2013

My Favorite Travel Apps

I often get asked "What are your favorite Disney apps?" and my list is always pretty similar - so I thought today I'd go a step beyond that and share what my favorite travel apps are, including Disney apps, of course!

And by the way - these are all FREE!

General Travel:
Instagram: what the stink does that have to do with travel?  Well, if you are a social networking person like myself using Instagram makes things EASY to post across several sites.  Shoot your picture, edit if desired, type in your description and share across Instagram (obviously), Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and foursquare.  In addition you can email it off quite quickly!

Kindle: I always download a couple books before a trip so I have something to read on the plane, or during a relaxing pool day, etc.  There are tons of decent books that are free too!

YouVersion: this is the Bible with tons of daily devotionals/reading plans.  There are many translations in this app, so you are sure to find your preferred version.  Plus, it has an audio version, so you can even listen to it.  Easy to keep on track while you are on the road with a Bible in your pocket!

SimpleTip: This app will split your check for you and show you how much a tip should be on a sliding scale.  You just plug in the total amount of your check, how many ways it should be split and adjust the tip amount and it does the math for you. Incredibly useful.



Flashlight: Pretty obvious what this is.  I cannot tell you how many times it has helped me in a dark hotel room when I didn't want to turn on the lights to disturb Joe and/or Henry.  Also great to find the one black sock that somehow got lost under the bed.

Free Light: This is a reading light.  Now if you are reading the Kindle on your phone you obviously don't need this, but if you have a traditional book, magazine, newspaper, etc. this is a great little app!

HopStop: Handy little app for navigating the transit systems within many large cities.  I used to use this for NYC all the time before I had a hang of the system.

Google Maps: A lot like HopStop, this can be very useful for transit in large cities; however, it's also great for walking or driving directions.  I use Google Maps almost daily to find a store, restaurant, coffee shop, etc. This is especially handy in a city you aren't too familiar with.  Google Maps is amazing.

Urbanspoon: Very useful to find good eats in large cities.

OnTheFly: I cannot recommend this app enough.  If you don't download any other from my list, GET THIS ONE.  This incredible app will search multiple airports, multiple airlines, and even a date range so you can see when and where the cheapest flights are.  It's a lot like Kayak or the like online, but even better because you can view an entire month at a glance if your dates are flexible.  It does not search Southwest if you happen to fly that popular airline.




Yapta: After you have used OnTheFly to find your flight, use Yapta to track it!  Plug in your flight information and Yapta will let you know if you ever qualify for a voucher/refund on your flight due the price dropping.  Southwest, JetBlue and AirTran both refund you even if it drops $1!  I have literally saved hundreds.  They also have a website that will email you if you qualify for a voucher/refund.  Unfortunately this app does not track Southwest - it seems Southwest does not play nice with 3rd parties. ;-)

CruiseFinder: This fantastic app will search by Cruise Line, Cruise Ship, destination and more.  Find a great deal in just a few minutes!

Postagram: Take a picture of yourself on vacation and have a postcard of that picture sent to your loved ones - all from this app.  The first 5 are free and it's only 99 cents per card after that - INCLUDING postage!  You can type in a message and the picture pops out of the postcard for a keepsake.  Seriously cool.

Disney Apps:
This list has shortened up recently as Disney has greatly improved upon their own app, so my #1 recommendation to you is "My Disney Experience".  This free app from Disney does it all.  You can access your entire reservation, dining, wait times, character meet & greet locations and times, maps and more.  You can even make dining reservations on it, and fairly soon you will be able to request and adjust your FastPasses via the app!  We have used this on the past few trips and it really is a solid app.



I know a few people also enjoy Disney trip planning apps, where you can plug in your confirmation numbers and such, but I just make a PDF copy of my spreadsheet planners and put them on my Kindle.  I find it easier and much quicker.  If you don't know how to do that, see my recent post HERE.

So tell me, what are your favorite travel apps?