THE LEGO MOVIE WORLD Opens with Great Fanfare

Our Spring Break adventures took us to one of our favorite theme parks, LEGOLAND Florida. We were invited to attend the grand opening of THE LEGO MOVIE WORLD on March 27, 2019 in Winter Haven!

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Visitors were flowing into the colorful theme park expansion while dancing performers threw metallic streamers into the crowd.

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THE LEGO MOVIE WORLD includes two new rides, a revamped attraction, a new shop, trendy eatery and playground area for kids. It’s an Instagrammers dream!

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Masters of Flight takes guests on a flight with help from a virtual screen – and gives them the feeling that they’re flying through a world made of LEGO bricks.

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Unikitty’s Disco Drop is thrilling for riders of all ages. Unikitty’s moods, shown on her digital face, go up and down as the ride does, too. Can I just say how cute Unikitty is?!

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Battle of Bricksburg may look familiar to fans of LEGOLAND Florida because it’s a renovated Chima. A boat whisks you through a land where aliens are trying to steal LEGO bricks. A quick spray from the boat can target these creatures – or an unsuspecting visitor on the sidewalk near the ride. There’s no shortage of water, so a quick tip: bring a poncho.

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#InstaFood TWO WORDS: Pink Tacos. I couldn’t believe it when I saw them. Forget Taco Tuesday, eat at Tacos Everyday! So cute.

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The reason we love LEGOLAND Florida is because there’s always something exciting to do – and new to explore.

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I’ve been visiting the park since childhood, when it was the famed “Cypress Gardens,” and always look forward to making new memories from my son.

Until next time… keep on strollin’!

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Celebrate America at LEGOLAND Florida’s Red, White & Boom!

Nothing says Independence Day like fireworks, family and funnel cakes. LEGOLAND Florida Resort has a treat for guests visiting the theme park this July 4th.

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Red, White & Boom includes LEGOLAND Florida’s biggest fireworks display of the year. Guests will watch the sky light up above Lake Eloise while wearing special viewing glasses.

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The annual celebration will also include special patriotic-themed menu items including a firecracker funnel cake topped with popping candy, a dessert pizza covered in blueberries, icing and streusel crumbles, and a churro dusted in red or blue cinnamon.

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Red, White & Boom will take place on Wednesday, July 4, 2018 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and is included with park admission. Visit http://www.legoland.com/Florida for more information- and have a LEGO-tastic 4th of July!

Adventures & Road Trips | 2017

I can’t wait for this year to end. Anyone else with me? It’s time for a fresh start!

Going into 2018, I thought I would share a little bit about us – and our favorite road trips this year.

I got the traveling itch from my mom. Growing up, she would often take my brother and me on fun adventures during the weekends. We have photo albums filled with fond memories: biking through the banyans in Boca Grande; searching for sea shells in Sanibel; picking strawberries in Plant City; and cruising the Caribbean aboard the Big Red Boat (the first Disney cruise ship!).

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A full-time nurse and single mom, she was the inspiration behind my blog, Stroller Full of Fun. I love hearing her offer suggestions to other people. She’s passionate about travel and knows the hidden gems throughout Florida.

I knew that I had to share the same adventures with my son when he was born. Our travel companion? My mom, who now loves to make the same memories with her grandson.

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Here’s some FUN we’ve had in 2017:

Walt Disney World Resort

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Pirate Room at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (Warning: Uncomfortable Beds!)

We bought our Florida Resident tickets early in the year – to celebrate my son’s fifth birthday in March. We got the 3-park passes because Hollywood Studios was going through what we’ll call a “transition” phase, so our days were spent exploring Disney World, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Oh and Disney Springs, we love it there too.

My Favorite: Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom

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Nana’s Favorite: International Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot

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Mason’s Favorite: Easter Egg Hunt at Epcot

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LEGOLAND Beach Retreat | Blog

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We were fortunate enough to be invited to stay at the brand new resort the night before it opened to the public. The details that LEGOLAND puts into their properties is amazing! The Beach Retreat, which is across the street from the theme park, joins the LEGOLAND Hotel, which is near the entrance to the park. The beach bungalows are perfect for families.

My Favorite: “Fish in a Bag” at Bricks Beach Bar

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Nana’s Favorite: They’re roomy! Watch a sunset on the front porch or pull the curtain on the kids’ bunk room for privacy.

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Mason’s Favorite: Pool play with foam LEGO bricks, exclusive to LEGOLAND Resorts

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Central Park, Largo

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This is one of our favorite year-round venues and it’s FREE! Central Park is located northwest of St. Petersburg. Once-a-month they offer rides aboard a tiny train that winds through the beautiful park. It’s the first weekend of the month, weather permitting. Central Park is a great place for birthday parties and offers special events. Follow their Facebook page for more information.

My Favorite: Holiday Stroll in December

Nana’s Favorite: Visiting Brocante, a vintage market in St. Pete, on the way home. It’s less than 20 miles south of the park and also held on the first weekend of the month.

Mason’s Favorite: The playground is AWESOME!

Dinosaur World, Plant City | Blog

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This quirky spot has grabbed our attention while driving east on Interstate-4 for years! Finally, we found ourselves exploring the dinosaur-themed spot in Plant City. One tip before you trek to the Jurassic Park-like attraction: check the forecast. Don’t let wet weather ruin your fun (or favorite shoes)! This park is mostly outdoors.

My Favorite: The educational value is worth the visit. Learn about dinosaur species and where their fossils were found.

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Mason’s Favorite: Geode cracker (extra charge)

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*Nana looks forward to visiting Dinosaur World soon!

Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota | Blog

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This is home. I was lucky enough to spend my first years of life on Siesta Key. Even though we moved off of the island, I try to get there a few times a year. Yes, I said it. I live in paradise, but locals don’t go to the beach every weekend. Parking is horrendous – especially after being named the nation’s best by Dr. Beach. The sand is amazing! It feels like you’re walking on baby powder and even in the blistering sun, it stays cool on your feet. That’s because there’s quartz in it.

My Favorite: Eating at Old Salty Dog (try the Dog Bites)

Nana’s Favorite: The annual sand sculpture competition, Siesta Key Crystal Classic, in November.

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Mason’s Favorite: Playing in the Gulf of Mexico. Do you know the stingray shuffle? You must shuffle your feet in the sand to prevent an injury from stepping on our sea life.

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We look forward to hitting the road and sharing new adventures in 2018.

Do you have any travel resolutions? Let us know where you hope to go in the New Year!

Follow us, Stroller Full of Fun, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

Building Holiday Memories at Christmas Bricktacular

‘Tis the Season for holiday bricks and our favorite LEGOLAND Florida picks!

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We were recently invited to attend Christmas Bricktacular at the Winter Haven theme park. Our family had a blast! It was our first time visiting the holiday-themed weekend event – and we will be sure to go again.

FUN TOWN

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Christmas Bricktacular includes several photo-friendly spots built for families. That makes Mom and Grandma happy. Step inside a snow globe for a photo, or pose inside a holiday wreath made of 80,000 LEGO bricks. Both photo opportunities are located in Fun Town.

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Meet LEGO Santa or LEGO Toy Soldier visiting from the North Pole. You’ll notice that there’s no photo proof! That’s because my little guy is still weary of characters. Meeting times are in the 2017 Event Guide, which is available at the entrance gate.

Want to build your own LEGO Christmas ornament? They are available for purchase in the LEGO Factory Experience.

DUPLO VALLEY

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These Christmas Bricktacular activities are not to be missed! Join Mrs. Claus for storytime; she’s got an inspiring message and carolers, too. This is a great activity which involves the entire family. Several people are chosen from the audience to participate.

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Nearby, a creative activity. Does your child love to color or write? LEGOLAND will mail a very special piece of mail to the North Pole for you!

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My son wrote Santa a letter with only one thing on his Christmas wishlist: Cars.

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Next, a competition for your LEGO builder – browse tables filled with bricks and come up with the best holiday creation, and you may win a prize!

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Lastly, hop into Santa’s sleigh for a photo with his reindeer, across from the DUPLO Tot Spot.

MINILAND USA

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A familiar friendly scout elf is up to his usual tricks this holiday season. If your family loves Elf on the Shelf like ours, then you’ll love Santa’s Helper Scavenger Hunt. Pick up a free map at the LEGO Studio Store, find the elves and redeem the map for a collectible prize.

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Also, in the heart of MINILAND you can help build a beautiful mosaic canvas – celebrating Holidays Around the World. Match the LEGO bricks to the colors on your piece and watch it come together.

There’s so much to see and do at LEGOLAND Florida during Christmas Bricktacular. There are specialty treats including holiday ice cream cones and peppermint coffee; and shopping specials for those looking for the perfect gift. Enjoy an extra hour of shopping each night after the park closes!

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Our favorite part of Christmas Bricktacular came at twilight. That’s when the LEGO Christmas Tree Spectacular gets underway. Beginning at 5:15 p.m., a 30-foot LEGO Christmas tree comes to life. The dazzling show, amongst the snow and colorful lights, is sure to get you into the holiday spirit.

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The time to visit Christmas Bricktacular is running out. It takes place every weekend in December and ends on Christmas Day.

LEGOLAND Florida is one of our favorite theme parks. Besides offering fun rides and activities for every member of the family, it inspires children to use their amazing imagination.

Disclosure: Stroller Full of Fun was invited to experience this event at LEGOLAND Florida. We received complimentary admission, however all opinions are our own.

Why I’m Grateful for That Mischievous Elf

On the Eve of December, when my five-year old goes night-night, Mommy will embark on a 24 day-long mission: Elf on the Shelf.

My day started out unlike any other. First, the batteries went out on my electric toothbrush. Then, I stepped in cat vomit – leaving a repulsive trail across the kitchen. A meeting I planned my day around was cancelled – and oops, someone forgot to tell me. Last but not least, my son had his usual meltdown at the end of soccer practice – this time because he didn’t get to make the last goal.

Some people laugh at the idea of Elf on the Shelf. They complain for waking in the middle of the night with “Did I move the Elf?” anxiety. To me, the Elf is a reminder that I’m a parent. There’s a little boy who wished at dinner that his little friend would return tonight. Isn’t that reason enough to use your imagination, or someone else’s Pinterest ideas for 24 days?

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As I finish preparing the Elf’s gift to my son, and a return scene which makes it look like he’s in the middle of a wrapping disaster, I realize that today wasn’t so bad after all. We have a home, a pet, a job and a child. There are many who don’t, or can’t have these things.

Tomorrow my day will likely start much differently. I imagine it will include a shriek of excitement and a “Mommy, Daddy… he’s back!”, thanks to that little Elf. I’m looking forward to more magic than baa-humbug this holiday season. That’s also my wish for you.

Visit the Most Festive Chick-fil-A in Florida

We recently made our annual trek to Chick-fil-A on Waters Avenue in Tampa, Florida in search of some holiday cheer.

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This is quickly becoming one of our favorite holiday traditions. Dinner and dazzling lights! According to Chick-fil-A, it all started at this location with one Christmas tree on the roof in the late 90’s.

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Since then, the holiday display has grown to approx. one million lights! Throughout mid-November and December, choirs from schools, churches and even the University of South Florida perform in the parking lot.

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Dozens of bleachers allow families to picnic outside while taking in the holiday glory. A blanket of Christmas lights hangs from the sky, surely a treat for travellers leaving from nearby Tampa International Airport.

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A beautiful nativity is topped by a carousel of angels; other displays include reindeer in white lights, spinning Christmas trees and a drive-thru covered in red and green.

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TIPS:

● Arrive at sunset. The lines grows quickly the later it gets – and that’s when the lights turn on.

● Don’t forget your camera! There’s a beautiful Christmas tree (near a few outdoor tables) that is perfect for family photos.

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● Find overflow parking in the adjoining shopping center.

● BELIEVE. This Chick-fil-A is truly magical. It feels as if your a figure inside a wondrous snow globe.

This month’s events also include Breakfast with Santa and an outdoor screening of “Polar Express.” Be sure to check the Chick-fil-A Waters Ave. Facebook for more information.

6299 W Waters Ave., Tampa, FL 33634

Light display available through New Years.

Melissa Parker, writer for Stroller Full of Fun, is a member of the #ChickfilAMoms panel. She received no compensation for this article. Opinions are her own.

Merry Chick-mas!

 

Sandy Adventures in Sarasota, Florida

Have you ever walked through a sea of baby powder? If not, it’s time for you to visit Siesta Key, Florida. Named the #1 beach in the U.S., it truly is Sarasota’s treasure.

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The public beach looks much different than when I lived across the street in the early 80’s. Quaint beach cottages made way for multi-million dollar condos. Yet, some traditions remain the same.

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Whimsical sand sculptures still rise from the quartz sand. The Siesta Key Crystal Classic Sand Sculpting Competition takes place in mid-November.

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Master sand sculptors from around the world visit the snowy-white beach for an event that raises money for sea turtle conservation.

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The Crystal Classic is highly attended and free parking is typically hard to find on the weekend, but one thing may keep the crowds away, rain. Grey skies and misty rain provided the backdrop for this day.

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We wait until the last hour of the event, and usually the only obstructions in our camera lens are those pesky advertisements. (It didn’t used to be that way – the people who paid to enter and those who didn’t were merely separated by a waist-high mesh barrier.)

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The Crystal Classic added a new feature this year, a nighttime viewing on Friday and Saturday nights. The sculptures are splashed in colored lights. We look forward to seeing that next year.

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After viewing the sand sculptures you can stroll the beach and shop one of the many vendors. An unforgettable drum circle takes place on the beach every Sunday at sunset.

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Grab a cocktail at the beach pavilion or bring your own. Just leave the glass at home and make sure that trash leaves with you. The nearby Village has eateries and shopping if your family needs a break from the sand.

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Almost every night, Mother Nature paints a beautiful picture for those watching with their toes in the sand. Siesta Key sunsets are good for the soul. One must always seek adventure, even if it’s not far from home.

Girlfriends’ Guide to Brunch | Chicago

There’s nothing better than traveling with your best friend.

During a recent whirlwind trip to Chicago, we happened upon two fabulous eateries; both in the same vicinity, near Millennium Park (and the famous “Bean”).

Bestie’s Pick:

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Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe: Prudential Plaza – 130 E Randolph Street, Chicago

One of four locations, Wildberry Cafe Chicago serves breakfast and lunch featuring local farm fresh ingredients. It was worth the 90-minute wait. We’re told that the restaurant starts filling up at 7 a.m. After giving them our phone number, we received a text message with a link, so that we could check our place in line. We visited nearby sites, and did a little chocolate-tasting at Fannie May, so the time wasn’t wasted.

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The menu at Wildberry Cafe includes egg-cellent omelettes and skillets, sandwiches, salads and a dozen varieties of specialty pancakes, including the “Signature Berry Bliss.” Most breakfast plates come with a side of toast or pancakes. The menu offers a number of coffee or smoothie drinks – but I absolutely fell in love with the Black Currant Iced Tea. Our waiter couldn’t have been more pleasant. Upbeat music played throughout this contemporary restaurant.

My Pick:

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Cindy’s: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel – 12 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago

This gorgeous rooftop restaurant offers lunch and dinner daily; and brunch on the weekends. We were able to be seated at a counter-style table immediately. However, I would highly recommend reservations at this popular eatery. There were several people there for special events, such as bachelor/bachelorette and birthday parties. The restaurant is known for its amazing views, but unfortunately we were there during a thunderstorm.

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The Instagram-worthy Brunch menu features Plates, Platters, Cast Irons and Pastries, or a Southern Belle Burger. Drinks from the bar are just as picturesque, classified as High Noon Potions & Elixirs — some garnished with a fresh flower. Our waiter was extremely hospitable  and even shared a little of the building’s history. One of the owners is Hyatt heir, John Pritzker.

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The painting that hangs on a brick wall in the private dining room is said to be an original Warhol of the restaurant’s namesake, Cindy Pritzker. The farm-style, chic atrium is magical and features a sweet bar, lined with glass jars filled with honey.

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Both of these restaurants are an absolute must while visiting Chicago! Even in the wind and rain, I fell in love with this magical city and its kind residents.

Hot Holiday Item: Advent Calendars

It took careful planning to pack my son’s surprise advent calendar into my carry-on while traveling this week. I bought it at the LEGO store to continue one of our newest holiday traditions.

Last year, the Elf on the Shelf arrived on December 1st with a pretty package. He brought my then-four year old son a Disney Tsum Tsum Advent Calendar. I loved watching his face light up each morning as he unveiled a new character!

After returning home from Chicago, I took another trip (aka “Mom vacation”) to Target for a few groceries. While perusing the toy aisle I spotted an entire end cap filled with advent calendars. If trends tell me anything (blind bags and plastic surprise eggs) — you better run and grab yourself one before they’re gone!

These are a great alternative to a traditional advent calendar filled with chocolate, if you have a child with certain food allergies – or one who doesn’t eat candy, like mine. Each contains small toys, so keep that in mind when buying for your little ones.

Ages 3+

  • Paw Patrol: $24.99
  • Frozen Adventure: $29.99

Ages 5-12

  • LEGO Star Wars: $39.99
  • LEGO City: $29.99
  • LEGO Friends: $29.99

Ages 6-9

  • Marvel Tsum Tsum: $39.99
  • Disney Tsum Tsum: $39.99

SHOPPING TIP: Last year, I was able to snag my advent calendar for half-off on December 1st. The retailer (Wal-Mart) had them stored in the back room, so I had to ask about the item at customer service before getting my hands on the deal.

Do you have a favorite tradition leading up to the holidays? Share with me on Facebook!

 

Travel Planning During Hurricane Season | What You Need to Know

When my best friend and I began planning our trip to Chicago nearly a year ago, we didn’t take one very important thing into consideration: hurricane season.

We set a date for September and carefully chose restaurants and activities — knowing that this would be my first visit to Chi-Town. Our plans included a sightseeing boat cruise, a Cubs game at Wrigley Field and much more.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. This Florida girl, born and raised, knows that some years are more active than others. 2017 is one of those years.

More than a week away from our trip, we began watching the forecasts for Hurricane Irma. My bestie lives on the east coast of Florida and I live on the west coast. We were both in the “cone of uncertainty,” meaning the storm could go either way.

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Luckily, both our communities were spared from serious damage, but not our trip. The day after Irma made a mess, Southwest Airlines cancelled our flights. Our options: book again within 14 days or receive a refund. We chose the latter.

Just days later, upon re-booking the flight to Midway Airport, the prices had significantly changed. To my surprise, I didn’t feel the #SouthwestHeart while on the phone with Customer Service.  The ticket to Chicago was still reasonably priced – and the same time as the original trip (score!); but the returning flight home to Tampa had increased in price by 200% for the same departure time.

I had to cut my sightseeing by nine hours so that I could stick to my budget. The one-way, evening flight now cost $400. Southwest’s representative made sure I was aware that I was paying the same price as my original flight, when I inquired why they wouldn’t price-match my ticket. I also made sure that she knew, that I had to be at the airport at 8 a.m. instead of 5 p.m. – because I had to reschedule a flight that they had cancelled.

  • Do your research. Always read an airline policy before booking. A cancellation may be imminent – and out of your control.
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Photo: Stroller Full of Fun

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley Field, after all. We purchased tickets to a game weeks before our trip, but with the stress of hurricane cleanup and returning back to work, there was no time to sell them online. Our tickets were a total loss. We still visited Wrigleyville, but without hearing the crack of a bat.

  • Consider waiting until arrival before buying tickets for a show, sporting event or venue. Or you may have to re-sell the tickets online to get your money back, if your trip is cancelled.

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Prepare for a change of weather. This is probably one of the most important elements of vacation planning. Our jaunt to the Windy City was one month later than originally planned, and the weather didn’t disappoint. We experienced 36 hours of rain and chilly temperatures. I brought my umbrella with me, but left my rain boots at home. I can tell you after seeing a frenzy in the Nordstrom shoe department, the store was likely sold out of Hunter boots due to the gully washer and unprepared tourists.

  • Always check the weather — until the second you walk out the door. You never know what Mother Nature has in-store for you at your final destination. Ponchos and umbrellas are lightweight and much cheaper to buy at home.
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Photo: Stroller Full of Fun

What did I learn from our getaway? Planning vacations ahead of time doesn’t pay. Sometimes “Plan B” helps make the best memories. We were able to spend every second of our time in the city having fun.

This has been a devastating hurricane season. Not only were entire islands in the Caribbean wiped out – but some remain without power and food. Thousands of people are displaced. Towns will rebuild; cruise ships will return to their ports. Hurricane season once again proves to be unpredictable.

Did you ever experience a trip cancellation? Tell me about your tips — and how you handled it — on Facebook.