Traveling To Disney World: Family 2018 Disney World Vacation (Part 2)

Now that you’ve booked your trip to Disney World in Orlando, you need to actually get there.

Our daughters are both under ten, so driving from Central Illinois all the way to Orlando did not seem like the ideal means of travel to me.  We are very fortunate in that we have a local airport, Central Illinois Regional Airport, that flies to the Orlando/Sanford International Airport.  Using Allegiant Air, you can fly to Orlando/Sanford in about 2.5 hours.  That sure beats 20+ hours in the car.

I know flying can be expensive, but when you take into account the gas, the food, the hotels costs, and the incidentals of driving, flying seems far more convenient and not that much more expensive.  It was very nice to wake up in Illinois and go to bed in Florida.

A few words about Allegiant Air–yes, they had that scathing news report a few months ago.  We’ve flown Allegiant four times now in the last two years, and not once did I ever feel that our lives were endangered.  However, annoyances will arise with this airline.  They are a budget carrier, and it shows.  Three of the four times we flew with Allegiant, we had delays.  This is partly just air travel.  Everyone has delays.  One time, though, last summer, we were on the plane about to pull out three different times before they postponed the flight to the next day.  I’m talking we got on the plane, then we got off the plane.  Then we got on the plane, then we got off the plane.  Then–say it with me–we got on the plane, then we got off the plane.  My kids were great through the whole thing, but they were very confused.  The most irritating part about that ordeal is that it was impossible to reach their corporate headquarters.  I should say, though, that Allegiant put us in a nice hotel that night, and gave us each $100 vouchers with a one year expiration date.  We used those vouchers to offset the cost for this most recent trip!  I’d also like to say that all of the Allegiant employees we’ve dealt with have been very kind and professional.  Allegiant is not the most luxurious way to fly, but I certainly have no trepidation about getting on their planes.

Central Illinois Regional Airport is a dream.  It’s so clean and well-maintained.  The employees are very good there as well.  Orlando/Sanford International Airport is a little more dicey.  If you get there during off hours, it’s not bad at all.  However, it’s been packed to the gills each time we’ve been there.  It’s an international hub, so that stands to reason.  Once again, though, the employees were great.  I have a little inside information for you, by the way.  If you find yourself stuck in the Orlando/Sanford airport for any length of time, check out the international wing.  You walk down a long corridor before you enter it from the main wing.  It’s wide open with plenty of seating, plenty of shopping, plenty of restaurants, and big, clean bathrooms.  It looks much newer than the main part of the airport as well.

One more tip for flying with Allegiant.  Backpacks count as personal items, not carry-ons, as do purses.  To save money, I checked a suitcase, my wife checked a suitcase, and then our daughters shared a checked suitcase.  We did not use any carry-ons, but we each had a backpack for which we were not charged.  These personal items must fit under the airliner seat, though, so be sure to check your dimensions.

Okay, so we’ve made it to Orlando/Sanford International Airport–now how do we get to Disney World?  Ah, you’ve heard Disney runs a shuttle to Orlando International Airport, right?  Here’s the thing, Orlando/Sanford is not the same as Orlando International.  They are two different airports about forty minutes apart.  You’ve got some choices.  You can hire Lyft, Uber, or a taxi.  Lyft and Uber were out of the question for me–I’m not trusting a stranger to drive my family in Florida.  Taxis were about the same price as simply renting a car.  So … I rented a car.

I know what you’re thinking–“Scott, that’s crazy!  You rented a car just to sit in the parking lot of your resort!?”  Well, no.  We timed our flight so that it would arrive late Thursday evening.  We wanted to check in and hit Hollywood Studios right away Friday morning.  So, I rented a car from Alamo, which is a very short walk down a sidewalk outside of the Orlando/Sanford International Airport.  (Of course, I set all of this up ahead of time at the Alamo website.)  We rented a car, drove to a nearby hotel, spent the night, then drove to our resort first thing the next morning.  I parked at the resort, checked in the family, then left them to explore the resort as I returned the car at the Disney Car Care Center which has an Alamo onsite.  The Car Care Center is pretty much in the middle of the Walt Disney World grounds–it’s close to everything.  When I returned the car, I only had it for 24 hours–a one day rental.  (Actually, I only had it about 15 hours, but that’s okay.)  You see, this way you don’t have to pay a full week’s worth of car rental fees!  Great, right?  Best of all?  The Alamo at the Disney Car Care Center will shuttle you back to your resort.  In fact, they told me they’d take me anywhere I wanted to go as long as it was on Walt Disney World grounds.  Furthermore, they will also pick you up!  When it was time for us to leave, Alamo sent a shuttle for us, loaded up all of our luggage, and then drove us to the Disney Car Care Center in order to check out another car, which I then turned in to the Alamo at the Orlando/Sanford International Airport.  It’s a really fantastic service!

Of course, all of this requires careful planning.  You need to figure out what you need, communicate what you need, reserve what you need, and you need to keep all confirmation numbers on you.  I literally kept all of my confirmation papers in separate color-coded folders in my backpack with me–but I’m a little … you know.

And that’s how we got from Central Illinois to Walt Disney World and back!  Thanks for reading!

The next installment will arrive soon, and it will detail the resort we stayed at in 2017 and the resort we stayed at in 2018.  Hint: not all outlandishly expensive resorts on Walt Disney World grounds are created equal.

CIRA Airport 2018

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

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Solo: A Star Wars Story – A (Spoiler-Free) Movie Review

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!

This is the Star Wars movie that I didn’t even know I wanted.

Solo: A Star Wars story is an action-packed heist movie that delivers ample nods to the past while absolutely solidifying itself in the present even as it provides electrifying hints of things to come.

I’ll be honest — I didn’t really want or need a Han Solo movie.  You can’t get any better than Harrison Ford, right?  So why even try?

But, oh, man, am I glad they tried.  Make no mistake — Harrison Ford has not been replaced, but Alden Ehrenreich is on his way to being a worthy successor.  Maybe it’s because I have no idea who this actor is, but he looks enough like Harrison Ford that I had no trouble with him in the role, and before too long, he undeniably made it his own.  Yes, he’s got similar cadence and speech patterns to what Ford used, but this is a younger, inexperienced, more optimistic Han, and so Ehrenreich gets to play with that a little.  And because I’ve never seen this actor before, I had no preconceived notions.  As far as I was concerned, I only saw Han Solo up there on the screen.

Though they hit all of the major touchstones you would expect, nothing unfolds quite the way we imagined.  I loved Han’s first time meeting Chewbacca.  I loved Han’s initial encounter with Lando.  I loved Han’s instant connection to the Millennium Falcon.  I loved the infamous Kessel Run.  However, even though you know these things are coming, all of it manages to surprise.

In fact, that’s the most wonderful quality of this movie — the entire thing is a surprise.  It’s thrilling, from start to finish.  They zig when you think they are going to zag, and somehow a character that’s been around for over forty years and recently died on screen still feels fresh and original.  They’ve pulled off the impossible!

The cast is absolutely the reason this movie is so memorizing.  The chemistry between everyone is indisputable.  Alden Ehrenreich’s Han and Donald Glover’s Lando are fantastic together.  (Of course, Glover’s got crazy chemistry with everyone in everything — he’s just got that kind of charisma.)  Han and Chewbacca are a team we immediately root for.  Emilia Clarke and Ehrenreich create real sparks.  Woody Harrelson and Ehrenreich work together very well as a sort of mentor and student, though, to be honest, I only ever see Woody Harrelson when he’s in a movie.  He’s kind of like Tom Cruise in that regard.  Even Lando and his robot partner, L3-37, connect with the audience in an unanticipated, authentic way.

Which brings me to my next point — Solo: A Star Wars Story is frenetic, suspenseful, charming, and funny, but it’s also got a lot of heart.  A lot of heart.  This is the first time I’ve every really cared about Han Solo as a person.  Yes, I worried about his safety in the past, but I never really thought about what made him tick.  In this film, he’s given actual motivation, backstory, and depth.  You get to see him evolve as a character.  You witness events that mold him into the space pirate we meet in A New Hope.  He enjoys a lot of victories in this movie, but he also takes some solid knocks — both physically and emotionally.

But, my gosh, the action!  Remember, Ron Howard has delivered some of our most revered movies that range from flat-out comedies to pure action films.  He’s done poignant moments amidst insane energy before.  This is the man who directed Backdraft, Apollo 13, Far and Away, A Beautiful Mind, and Rush, after all.

In the end, though, my favorite thing about Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it’s fun.  It’s really that simple.  This is a fun movie.  Even when things get dire, Han Solo is a fun character.  Chewbacca is a fun character.  Lando is a fun character.  Yes, there are a few heavy moments in this film.  Characters die.  The battles are intense.  But even during all of this, there is always an air of fun.

Furthermore, Ron Howard and the studio seem to understand what made us fall in love with Han Solo to begin with.  This is a youthful Han Solo, to be sure, but this is not a sanitized, clean-cut version of the character.  In fact, there’s a very specific moment near the end of the movie that tells the old guys like me that this is the Han Solo of my youth.  I won’t say any more than that, but if you were around for the originals, you’ll know it when you see it.

On that note, consequently, I would like to say that I took my nine-year-old daughter to see it and she loved it, too.  I think it’s really cool that I got to grow up with Han Solo, and now she will as well.  Harrison Ford will always be my first Han Solo, but for her, he was the old guy in The Force Awakens.  This man, Alden Ehrenreich, will be the Han Solo that she identifies with most, and that’s one-hundred percent okay in my book.  Today’s youth deserves these iconic characters just as much as my generation did.  I’m so glad they found actors who can carry the torches and maybe even outdo their predecessors.

I am all in with Alden Ehrenreich.  I will gladly watch him, Donald Glover, and Emilia Clarke in as many of these movies as they want to make, especially because they lay some groundwork for a story line that I’m DYING to see.  I won’t spoil it for you, but this movie ends on a note that will hook the Star Wars fan hard.

You might think there’s not much Han Solo story left to tell before he meets Ben, Luke, and Leia, but trust me when I say they have set him up magnificently for plenty of more adventure.

I can’t wait.

Image result for solo a star wars story movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe – A Book Review

This particular book has been on my “to read” list for quite a while after I saw that Neil Gaiman recommended it.

The plot revolves around a man named Bax — a scholar many times over, a cheat, a sometimes fraud, and a recently released convict.  He has no money and so, after drifting a bit, takes up residence in what he presumes to be an abandoned house.  He soon discovers that the house has claimed him as its own, and so he must deal with all the sorcery, monsters, mystery, and family lineage that accompanies it.  The only question is to whom the title refers.  Is it the previous owner of the home … or Bax himself?

This book is unusual in that is is comprised of a series of letters written mostly by Bax himself.  Due to this method, we get to know Bax very well, or at least the persona he wishes to display to the recipients of his letters.  These letters make for a very fast, entertaining read.

However, because Bax is essentially a first-person narrator, I sometimes found myself distracted by his near omnipotence.  It’s a tricky thing to write a book in this manner, and, at times, Bax seemed to know too much which resulted in the letters feeling less like correspondence and more like actual chapters.

Even with that being said, I did enjoy the story’s trajectory.  It felt different in that it did not conform to the typical third act showdown.  Characters came and went without much fuss, which is how I would describe this book as a whole — it doesn’t make too much of a fuss.  It handles some rather epic concepts humbly and without much of a to-do.  I found that restraint rather charming, actually.

I’m glad Neil Gaiman, a literary hero of mine, thinks so highly of The Sorcerer’s House.  I apparently did not enjoy it as much as he, but if you think highly of Gaiman, I urge you to give it a try for yourself.

Image result for the sorcerer's house gene wolfe

 (Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Are You Excited For These Movies? Read the Books First!

Do you love to read the books that movies are based upon before those movies come out?  Check out this activity I had for my students today.  In order to get excited to read the source material, I had them watch the correlating trailers for upcoming films.  I’m happy to say they were very enthusiastic for several of the books (and movies)!  My primary goal as an educator is to help people want to read.  Take a look below and let me know which book you would most like to read, and also which movie looks the best to you.

Black Panther (Trailer)

Black Panther (Book)

*

Forever My Girl (Trailer)

Forever My Girl (Book)

*

12 Strong [Horse Soldiers] (Trailer)

Horse Soldiers (Book)

*

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Trailer)

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Book)

*

Annihilation (Trailer)

Annihilation (Book)

*

Avengers: Infinity War (Trailer)

Avengers: Infinity War (Book)

*

Every Day (Trailer)

Every Day (Book)

*

Ready Player One (Trailer)

Ready Player One (Book)

*

Red Sparrow (Trailer)

Red Sparrow (Book)

*

A Wrinkle In Time (Trailer)

A Wrinkle In Time (Book)

*

Love, Simon [Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda] (Trailer)

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Book)

 

(Last year’s movie trailers and books can be found HERE.)

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(Did you enjoy this post?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

My Reaction To the First Episode Of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

My wife and I have been meaning to watch this Amazon original for several weeks now, and last night we finally got around to the first episode.

In a word, we would describe it as “charming.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, an upper-class Jewish housewife becomes a stand-up comic after her would-be comedian husband leaves her and the kids.

At first, I wasn’t too sure about it.  Midge Maisel seemed a little too perfect, a little too flamboyant, a little too entitled.  The dialogue struck me as a little too fanciful, and the characters’ circumstances were just a bit too ideal.

However, before too long, her husband began to grate on the nerves and disaster lurked in the shadows.  When he finally revealed himself as the shallow jerk we suspected, the show took on a new angle — a far more satisfying angle.

It sounds terrible to say the show didn’t get interesting until Midge got the rug pulled out from under her, but it’s the truth.  I would not have continued watching the perfect wife living the perfect life, but watching Midge fall apart while inadvertently excelling at something on a whim (stand-up comedy) that her husband couldn’t do on his best day — that was so gratifying.

By the time the first episode ended, my wife and I were won over and excited for the next installment.

Rachel Brosnahan plays Midge Maisel, and I found myself enamored by her performance.  At times she came dangerously close to being annoying, but somehow she always managed to reign her character in enough to make her instead charming.  Best of all?  Brosnahan is actually really funny.  She’s got great timing, fun facial expressions, and fantastic inflection.  If the actress seems familiar to you, she played Rachel on House of Cards, which makes Brosnhan’s performance all the more amazing.   Midge is as different from Rachel as you can possibly imagine, especially in general body language and mood.  What a testament to Brosnahan’s range!

If you’re looking for a charming new show with a bit of drama but mostly comedy, this is the one for you.  Be aware, though, that it’s aimed at adults.  While the first episode is mostly light and fun, there are occasional swear words and flashes of nudity.

 

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

East of West: Volume 7 by Hickman and Dragotta

East of West continues to be one of the most satisfying series that I’m following.  Even with the seventh volume, Jonathan Hickman engages the reader with innovative plot development and surprising character development.  I never know what’s coming next with this series, and that’s about the highest compliment that I can pay.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, the idea is that … I can’t even.  It’s far too complicated.  Just pick up volume one and you’ll catch on quickly enough.  Just know it’s a dazzling blend of fantasy, western, science fiction, military, alternate history, samurai, and religion.

Hickman utilizes an ever growing cast with grace and nuance — everyone gets a moment to shine in this series.  Furthermore, Hickman seems to know exactly where he’s going at all times.  At no point during this series have I felt as though Hickman is floundering — he never seems lost.  Every issue counts with this series.  Every scene serves a purpose.  There is no wasted time.  That’s rare for a title that has lasted as long as East of West.

Of course, as good as the writing is, East of West would not be the same without Nick Dragotta.  This artist has put a particular stamp on this book; he’s given it an inimitable style.  He makes everyone one and everything in this series look cool.  That’s a great characteristic for a comic as eclectic as this.  Though the term is overused, his art is absolutely epic in nature.

Of particular note regarding Volume 7 — several major players die (or seem to, at least).  Wolf steps to the forefront.  Crow continues to steal every panel in which she appears.  Doma gets the girl.  Oh, and Archibald Chamberlain reveals a very special talent.

When people ask me what current comic book series is a must-read, East of West is always at the top of my recommended reading list.  I see no reason why that will change anytime soon as its excellence continues.

Image result for east of west volume 7

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Read “Independence Day” On Your Nook Or Kindle

Click “Kindle” to download

Click “NOOK” to download

Selena Epting finds herself in a dark parking lot with a man thrusting a knife at her and suggesting inexcusable acts. However, a hero emerges, someone ready to take on the perpetrator … but it’s not who you’d expect.  (Holiday/Adventure/Thriller)